Updated: January 18, 2022 4:37:12 am
A minor girl who went missing from a village in Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu in October 2020 was found living with her 35-year-old male friend whom she met through Instagram after a massive search by state police involving visits to multiple states and examination of CCTV footage at several locations.
The police said the two managed to evade the search teams every time until last week when they were finally caught in Vellore. A police team took the girl into custody on Saturday and arrested her friend – a fitness trainer allegedly involved in several theft cases.
Deputy Superintendent of Police S Vinodh said the girl’s father had filed a missing person case in October 2020. “She was 16 then. The case stated that her male friend had kidnapped her,” he told The Indian Express.
“But we had no clue about their whereabouts for a long time as they left no evidence. She befriended him through Instagram but she never used the cellphone again after she left home. The only evidence was CCTV footage of him taking her in a motorcycle when she went missing,” the DSP said.
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“So we had to go through footage of some 40 CCTV cameras to figure out his identity. Tracing his journey with the girl on a motorcycle, our police teams visited Bangalore, Telangana and Kerala. But we were always a day or two late as he kept moving from one place to another,” Vinodh said.
As there was no progress in the investigation, the girl’s father filed a petition in Madras High Court. The court was briefed about the complex nature of the case, he said.
Although the accused and the girl were careful about not using their cellphones, the police hoped to track him through his Aadhaar. They were hopeful that he would have to use the identity paper to take a new cell number. “That was when we got information that he had opened a new account with ICICI Bank in Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh). But we missed him again as he left Tirupati before we reached there,” Vinodh said. “Local officials told us that he was caught in a theft case… But he went on a fasting protest, and a judge released him early considering it a special case.”
The police yet again had to return empty-handed to brief the High Court.
“The officers were clueless again, and there was no scientific evidence to track them down; there was no phone number or anything,” Vinodh said.
Finally, they got a crucial tip-off that the two were in Telangana’s Ranga Reddy district. A police team, headed by Sub Inspector Sundaramoorthy, visited the place but got to know that the two had left for Chennai a day before.
“The police launched a massive search operation. About 150 people were questioned, and CCTV footage of several locations were examined before they were taken into custody from Vellore on Saturday,” Vinodh said.
According to the police, the girl, now 17, delivered a baby three months ago. After completing necessary medical examinations, the mother and child were produced before the Council for Child Welfare.
Detailed inquiry found that the man had taken the girl to not less than five states in south India, spending about a month at each place.
The police described the man as a habitual offender. “He appears to have stolen some 10 motorcycles and at least 150 cellphones,” the DSP said. He was also allegedly involved in theft at fitness centres where he worked in Bangalore and few other places.
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