our gaze,” he recalls.
Men from 93 police stations and 12 Crime Branch detection units were now on the prowl. “Every police station wanted to crack the case. This was a rare case of a serial molester at large. This was a rare case as usually one is caught sooner. Here we had 13 victims so far,” says Dinesh Kalgutkar, police naik at D N Nagar. Kalgutkar recalls scanning public feeds from surveillance cameras across the suburban city limits looking for a possible match.
(SKETCH 2: Prepared last February after compiling details from varied descriptions — “bushy eyebrows”, “dense earlobes” — given by child victims across the city. The new face had a beard and looked younger, the police observed)
On April 8, they had the second breakthrough. The Sion police station had picked up video footage of a child following a man, who would later molest her. They had a front profile of the man.
“The child was seen following the stranger, just like in the feed from the Santacruz police station. It bothered us. Why walk behind him? The body language of the accused also showed his confidence. We even pondered if there was an element of hypnotism,” said Kshirsagar.
Though badly disturbed, the victim gave details that matched the available information.
There were two crucial new revelations, though: the CCTV footage showed the man walking with a limp, while the victim recalled that one of his eyes appeared damaged. The police started calling the man they were looking for “kaala langda (dark man with a limp)”.
A video clip was now made, editing out the victim and adding together all available footage of the accused — from Santacruz, a few other feeds and Sion. Soon, after every morning disciplinary parade, it was made mandatory for officers to watch the video repeatedly so that they knew every small detail.
“I thought it was torture. It was drilled into our heads, with words like ‘imagine that the man has molested one of your daughters’. We were angry men whose egos had been punctured,” says assistant inspector Rajinder Bhonsle.
Separately, the night patrol officials deployed in slums between Khar and Andheri carried the video clip with them. “Every night, in a corner, we showed the video to select groups of informers or community leaders,” recalls Kalgutkar.
This was during the election season, and the extra work put the officers and constables on edge. “The EVM store room was behind the police station, with half the force engaged in its security,” says Kshirsagar.
One day, Malad police inspector Manohar Harpude saw the footage, and thought he noticed something familiar. He asked for the clip to be played back; he wanted to see the man’s walk. A few minutes later, Harpude dug out a 2010 file from the police archives of a habitual offender, who stole mobile phones. “It made the plot thicker,” says police naik Ajay More, 42.
When police went looking for this offender, Ayyaz Mohammed Ali Ansari, in the narrow lane of a …continued »