were included in the sketch, what the police had was still a description that could have matched any number of people. Meanwhile, calls from the grandmother kept getting more frantic.
Taking a chance, the Dadabhai Naoroji Nagar police decided to contact their counterparts elsewhere. They were in luck. At the Santacruz police station, a sub-inspector recalled a video feed in their crime archives of a girl child being molested behind a building compound. The grainy video feed had reached them months ago through a long channel. The victim and the accused had never been identified, but the police station had kept the evidence in the hope it would prove useful.
“The video didn’t show the face well; the camera was positioned at an angle and away from the scene. But the back profile of the accused showed him wearing slippers and wearing his shirt not tucked in,” recalls Balasaheb Awhad of D N Nagar police station. The child was following her alleged molester. He could be their suspect, and “this could be a habit” with him, the police thought.
A police team spent hours developing the footage at the detection room of the police station, and juxtaposing the new details into their sketch of the suspect. The 10-year-old confirmed the new image was closer to her assaulter.
Now the police pasted posters with the sketch across the city. “No public space was spared. When the city woke up, I wanted everyone to look for this man,” says Awhad.
The next breakthrough, something totally unexpected, came at the monthly crime meeting in February 2014. At such meetings, held at the Mumbai Police headquarters in Crawford Market, undetected cases are brought to the commissioner’s table. When the D N Nagar police station brought up the alleged molester, as many as 12 more police stations reported unsolved sexual assault cases of a similar nature, with each victim a girl child returning home alone, accosted by a man introducing himself as “a friend of her father” —though no one in their extended families matched the assaulter’s description.
(SKETCH 1: Prepared after case lodged with D N Nagar police in January 2013, from victim’s description and a video already with Santacruz police — dark complexion, hair brushed back, broad forehead, thick moustache, long eyebrows.)
Each police station was asked to revisit their respective cases, including the victims involved. For almost a fortnight, women officers talked to the minor victims, while other officials revisited the crime scenes to look for any camera that may have picked up the assault from any angle.
Each victim talked of “some stench” from the accused, which the police officers assume was of liquor. A few recalled he had a beard, one victim spoke of his thick bushy eyebrows, yet another of his “dense earlobes”, while the hairstyle varied. All remembered his paunch.
Kshirsagar says they again revised their sketch. “The new man looked younger. He had a beard. His face was long… We went back looking for our suspect. We changed …continued »