Ten days after three teenage girls went missing from Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district, two of whom were found dead later, what happened to them remains a mystery.
The third girl, found injured on the railway tracks in Palakkad, is critical.
Police have ruled out sexual or physical assault after medical examination of the three, and are investigating whether the girls jumped off a moving train as part of a suicide pact.
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All students of Class XII, S Raji, 16, Athira R Nair, 17, and Arya K Suresh, 16, who were close friends, had left their homes on July 9 for the higher secondary school they studied in at Konni. However, they never reached school.
As a hunt began for them, the girls remained undiscovered till July 13. That day morning, Raji and Athira’s bodies were discovered along the railway tracks near the Mankara railway station in Palakkad district, while Arya was found injured a little distance away. An address Athira had scribbled on her hand helped police identify the three as the missing Konni girls.
None of them was wearing the school uniform in which they had left home. Their bags were later recovered from the Bangalore-Kanyakumari Island Express, which runs along the tracks where the girls were found.
Police sources said post-mortem reports indicate all the three had received head injuries from jumping off a moving train.
Police have questioned around 100 persons so far, including friends of the girl traced through social media, but have failed to get any leads on why they left home. While officials said their findings indicated the three tried to kill themselves in a suicide pact, their families have said there was no reason for the girls to do so.
Neighbours said the families did not have any financial troubles. Both Athira and Arya’s fathers work in the Gulf. Arya’s father had given her a tablet after she did well in her Class X exams. While Raji’s father no longer lives with the family, her mother works with a private firm.
The school authorities also said the three were good students, regular at classes, and had shown no signs of stress or family trouble.
Arya, who could have given some answers, is currently in no condition to talk.
As per what police have determined so far, on July 9, instead of going to school, the girls mortaged some gold in Pathanamthitta and used the money to buy train tickets to Delhi from Chengannur, 24 km away. However, they appear to have boarded the wrong train and got off at Mavelikkara, which is 13 km from Chengannur.
At Mavelikkara, they used a mobile phone of a trader to call up the home of one of the girls, to find out if anybody had realised they were missing. They returned to Chengannur to get their train tickets cancelled and money refunded, but failed. So they went to Ernakulam by bus and then boarded a train for Bangalore.
On July 11, they appear to have returned to Ernakulam, and later gone to Bangalore again. On July 13, they were presumably returning from Bangalore to Ernakulam when they apparently jumped off the train.
The families of the girls had approached police on the evening of July 9 after they had contacted the trader on the number from which the girls had called, and realised something was amiss. Police said they acted promptly, alerting the railway police and railway stations outside the state as well.
Police added that the girls appeared to have been constantly on the move. Train tickets recovered from their bags have shown they visited Bangalore, 600 km away from Pathanamthitta, at least twice. Entry tickets for the Lal Bagh Botanical Garden were recovered from their bags, and police later confirmed they had visited the park from the CCTV at the entrance gates of the garden. There was no one else with the girls at the time.