Uttar Pradesh DGP A L Banerjee is facing Opposition flak for saying on Saturday that they were exploring other theories in the death of two cousins in Badaun’s Katra Sadatganj village. However, The Indian Express has found that there are many inconsistencies in what has been considered a case of rape and murder so far.
A team of forensic specialists that visited the village over Friday and Saturday has told police that the scene of the alleged rape was possibly not the mango tree where the girls were found hanging, but a patch of Eucalyptus trees a few metres away, sources said.
The team also found no forensic evidence to show that the scuffle described by “eyewitness” Babu Ram, whom the girls called “uncle”, took place where he said it had. Ram claimed to have seen the girls being dragged away and said he had tried to intervene.
The forensic team included Deputy Director of Lucknow’s Forensic Science Laboratory Dr Giyasuddin Khan, a DNA expert and five senior forensic scientists from Bareilly.
Five bottles of beer were recovered by the team from around the Eucalyptus trees, apart from “spot evidence” such as imprints of feet. They also lifted samples from which they could get fingerprints.
The two branches of the mango tree from which the girls were found hanging have been examined, and experts hope to determine the number of people involved in the hanging.
The members of the team also examined the house of Ram and his brother. On Friday, they visited the houses of the accused and retrieved samples.
While police officials examining the case remained tightlipped on Sunday on the twist and turns in the case, the family of the victims declined to speak to a Special Investigating Team appointed by the Uttar Pradesh Police, insisting they wanted a CBI probe.
“Police are trying to frame us to protect the accused. We will speak only to the CBI now, and if this action of the police continues, we will be forced to leave our village and Uttar Pradesh, and move to Delhi to get justice,” the father of one of the deceased girls said.
The BSP said DGP Banerjee’s statement was a deliberate attempt to turn the direction of investigation and to save the accused persons and policemen. “All the accused are from a particular caste of Yadavs, on whom the Chief Minister is benevolent, and it is because of this benevolence that the DGP has expressed the feelings of the CM,” the party said.
Banerjee hinted at both a property dispute and honour killing in the deaths.
A look at a few of the inconsistencies and unanswered questions in the police investigation so far:
* There is no official word from the police yet on the spot of the alleged rape and murder, or why efforts were not made earlier to identify the scene of the crime. The mango tree where the girls were found hanging is about 20 metres from their home, and visible both from their houses as well as the houses of the deceased. Yet, the family of the victims and the eyewitnesses claim to have been searching futilely for the girls in the area.
* The branches from which the girls were found hanging are at a height of 10-12 feet. Police officials had expressed doubts over the three accused brothers being able to hang the girls at this height. But forensic teams or teams to reconstruct the crime scene were not called earlier. Police investigators had also questioned in private why the accused would hang the victims in public view after raping and murdering them and not, for example, just dispose them of in nearby Ganga.
* “Eyewitness” Babu Ram named two “unidentified accused” in the FIR. They are yet to be traced.
* While the victims’ family and the accused say police officials present at the police chowki took them to the accused’s house the second time they visited the chowki, and that they themselves entered the house and found Pappu sleeping, this does not find mention in the FIR, nor the time when this happened. The FIR does not mention the time when the eyewitness claims to have seen the girls being dragged either. Police officials admit inconsistencies on timing.
* Veerpal Yadav, the father of the accused brothers, has said Pappu had a fight with a friend of one of the victims. Till Sunday, he told The Indian Express, police had not recorded his or the statement of any of his family members.
* It remains unclear why, though Babu Ram claimed to have spotted only accused Pappu by his torchlight dragging the cousins, his two elder brothers were also arrested and made accused in the case.
* The DGP said the girls were strangled before they were hanged. Post-mortem reports of the two accessed by The Indian Express contradict this, saying asphyxia was caused “due to ante-mortem hanging”, indicating the girls were alive when they were hanged. The autopsy reports also talk of “post-mortem staining” — a bluish discolouration due to distention of blood vessels — being found only on the lower part of the body, including the “lower abdomen, lower back and both lower limbs”. This, forensic experts say, indicates the position of the body at the time of death. “If the victim is lying down, the stain will appear first on the neck and then travel down the back, barring parts like calves and heels, which are pressed down. If the victim has been vertically suspended or hanged, like in this case, the staining, also known as hypostasis, is most pronounced on the lower body,” said a senior official. According to post-mortem findings, the tongues of both the girls tongue were found protruding, again indicating that hanging led to asphyxia.
* Banerjee said there was a possibility that one of the girls was not raped. The post-mortem reports, however, talk of “perineal findings suggestive of rape”. According to the reports, multiple vaginal tears, vaginal discharge and bluish colouring in the perineal areas were seen in the case of the elder cousin. The younger girl had blood clot in and around the vaginal area, clots and abrasions around the hymen. No other external injuries were found on the two.
* Unconfirmed reports emerged on Friday that pieces of cloth were found in the mouths of the girls, indicating they were strangled. However, as per the post-mortem findings, only the clothes of the victims and jewellery — a nose ring and three rings from one cousin, and two bangles and four rings from the second — were retreieved and preserved from the bodies.
* Despite DGP Banerjee meeting the victims’ family on Tuesday and obtaining a letter seeking a CBI probe from them, an SIT was constituted by the UP Police.