Three of four bullets fired on journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh Tuesday night outside her residence in west Bengaluru by an unidentified assailant pierced her body while a fourth missed and its fragments were found in a wall of her home, investigations by Bengaluru police have revealed. A preliminary analysis of the four empty cartridges found at the site of the shooting of 55-year-old Lankesh has determined that a countrymade 7.65 mm pistol, which is commonly available, was used in the killing.
A post-mortem examination carried out Wednesday morning by doctors at the Victoria Hospital has revealed three entry and three corresponding exit wounds on the body, sources associated with the forensic investigations said. “One bullet entered the body from behind the shoulder region and two bullets hit the abdomen from the front. There are entry wounds and corresponding exit wounds for each of the three bullets,’’ sources at the hospital said.
The bullets that hit Lankesh damaged her heart and lungs, causing her death at the spot.
Investigations at the crime scene since Tuesday night led to the recovery of four cartridges and small fragments of the four bullets suspected to have been fired at the journalist in the 10-feet distance between her gate and the entrance to her house.
The 7.65 mm countrymade weapon used for the killing of the journalist is of the same kind as the weapons used in the killing of rationalist and Kannada scholar M M Kalburgi, 77, on August 30, 2015 at Dharwad, and those used in the murder of Maharashtra rationalists Govind Pansare, 81, in Kolhapur on February 16, 2015 and Narendra Dabholkar in Pune on August 20, 2013.
Forensic investigations of the cartridges and bullets recovered from the unsolved murders of Kalburgi, Pansare and Dabholkar have revealed that the 7.65 mm pistol used to kill Kalburgi in 2015 was the same gun that was used to murder Pansare the same year. The forensic probe also revealed that one of two guns used to shoot Pansare was used to kill Dabholkar in 2013.
The Bengaluru police are likely to seek forensic analysis of the bullet fragments and cartridges from the crime scene of the murder of Lankesh for comparison with similar material found in the killings of Kalburgi, Pansare and Dabholkar to confirm/rule out involvement of a common group.
The investigations in the Pansare case by the CBI suggested the involvement of a radical right wing Goa-based outfit, Sanatan Sanstha, in the killing of the rationalist.
In a press release issued Wednesday on the killing of Lankesh, Sanatan Sanstha spokesperson Chetan Rajhans said “every incident of murder is condemnable, but the communists and progressive activists are shouting against Hindutva forces without any evidence”.
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“Criticism after the murder of a communist and silence after the murder of Hindus is the behaviour of progressive activists. We condemn this biased nature,” the Sanatan Sanstha stated, calling upon the Karnataka government to allow police conduct a “fair probe”.
The Bengaluru police who were not able to retrieve password-protected CCTV footage from four cameras located at Lankesh’s home on Tuesday night managed to recover the footage Wednesday morning. Two of the cameras located at the front of the house have captured the shooting of Lankesh in stages, police sources said.
One of the cameras captured images of a person, wearing a black jacket and a helmet, firing at the journalist in the compound of her home after she stepped out from her car to open the gates. The camera shows a light — probably of a motorcycle — behind the journalist’s car which disappears when the shooter leaves after the killing. “A person is seen in the CCTV footage wearing a helmet and firing,’’ Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah confirmed.
Investigators have surmised, based on preliminary findings, that the journalist was first shot in the back while she opened the gates to her home and was later shot when she tried to reach the entrance to her locked home. Police are working on the theory that the assailants watched Lankesh’s movements for a while and were trailing her from her workplace at the Gauri Lankesh Patrike in south Bengaluru, around 10 km away, Tuesday night
Siddaramaiah Wednesday ordered the creation of a Special Investigation Team under the leadership of an Inspector General of Police to probe the Lankesh murder. He also asked for sharing of information by a CID team that has been probing the murder of Kalburgi over the last two years.
In New Delhi, the Union Home Ministry sought a report from the Karnataka government on the killing of Lankesh. A Ministry official said Home Minister Rajnath Singh directed Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba to get a report from the state government. The Karnataka government has been asked to provide details of the incident and steps taken to nab those involved in the killing, the official said.