The Mumbai Police probing the alleged rape of a 29-year-old model by one of its own men suspect that the woman’s detention from outside a suburban hotel and the extortion of cash and valuables worth nearly Rs 10 lakh from her and her male friend were premeditated. Investigators said the hotel in Sakinaka, where the model was to meet a ‘film producer’ on April 3, had been approached by some of the accused earlier that day. These accused, who are police informers, reportedly tried to negotiate with the manager over booking a room where they would carry out a ‘raid’, sources said.
“The manager, however, refused to cooperate claiming that he could not grant such permissions,” a senior police officer told The Indian Express.
Seven men and a woman have been arrested in the case, of which three are police personnel and the other five police informers. While Assistant Police Inspector (API) Sunil Khatpe (34) was arrested for sexually abusing the victim, API Suresh Suryavanshi (36) and constable Yogesh Ponde (36) were booked for extortion (Section 384 of the Indian Penal Code), common intent (Section 34), wrongful restraint (Section 341) and wrongful constraint (Section 342). The others arrested were also booked under the same sections.
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The victim was picked up from outside the hotel, along with a male friend, at 12.50 am on April 3. While her friend was taken to the Sakinaka police station and kept in the detection room there, she was taken in a private Tata Safari by the men in plainclothes and a woman posing as a policewoman to Sangharsh Nagar Beat Chowky No. 1, where she was detained for nearly 10 hours. She was allegedly told by Khatpe to perform oral sex on him twice.
“We also have statements of other witnesses who told us that these accused were seen in the vicinity of the hotel before the ‘so-called’ raid,” added the officer.
The police are now probing if the model coordinator and the Gujarati businessman who the victim met were also party to the plan.
The victim reportedly got in touch with the model coordinator through a company providing advertisements on online. This was the first time that the coordinator asked her to collect cash for an assignment. She had never met the producer before.
Sources in the Mumbai police also claimed that the arrested policemen confessed during preliminary interrogation to having committed the crime with the intention of making some easy cash, though Khatpe has denied sexually abusingss the woman. Under the amended law, forcing a woman to perform oral sex amounts to rape.
While Khatpe has denied the sexual assault charge, the arrested woman, Ayesha Malviya (24), reportedly told interrogators that around 5 am, Khatpe signalled for her to leave the police chowky and then bolted the room from inside. “This is enough circumstantial evidence to ascertain the claim that she was sexually exploited,” the officer said.
One setback for investigators is that the hotel’s CCTV cameras were non-functional on the day of the alleged crime. “Now, we have to only rely on the statements of eyewitnesses and other technical evidence,” he added.
The hotel management, however, refused to comment on the detention outside their premises or the attempt to book a room for an alleged raid.
The victim, upon being released following a nine-hour detention, got herself medically examined at the civic-run Cooper Hospital. The medical report, a copy of which is with The Indian Express, stated that the victim was sexually assaulted. It notes “bite marks” on her body, “peno-oral sex” and that her hair had been pulled.
The victim’s complaint also stated they were allowed to leave only after they paid a bribe of Rs 4.35 lakh, which the friend’s mother transferred to the account of Vinod Chattpaar, who works as a manager at former Congress MLA Naseem Khan’s office. Investigators from the Crime Branch will now probe the money trail.”
The arrested policemen will be suspended on Saturday as per the service rules. “If a policemen is arrested for a serious offence, he is suspended within 48 hours,” a senior police officer said. “A departmental inquiry by a DCP rank police officer from another city will be conducted on the point of dismissal from service,” said Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Deven Bharti.
The victim has alleged in her complaint that her ordeal continued even after the alleged sexual assault on April 3. “I got messages from an unknown number that I believe is one of the policemen,” she alleged. Senior police officers confirmed that the said number belonged to arrested accused API Khatpe.
Also, the male friend stated that he was physically abused by the policemen at the Sakinaka police station when he told them that he was close to some politicians.