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THE two people involved in the shooting of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh, 55, outside her Ideal Homes Layout residence in west Bengaluru, were waiting for her to come home, investigators have surmised after analysing CCTV footage and other evidence pertaining to the crime.
Lankesh was shot in the frontyard of her home at 8 pm on September 5 by two assailants who came on a motorcycle and fired four bullets from a 7.65 mm country-made pistol, when she got down to open the gates to her home.
While it was earlier believed that the attackers followed Lankesh home from her office in Basavanagudi in south Bengaluru, investigators now believe that the two were lying in wait in the area around her home.
The SIT is pouring through data of cellphones in the region, Lankesh’s office and her route home, around the time of the crime, in the hope of picking up a lead regarding a message being passed of Lankesh’s travel back home on the night of her killing. Officials are also focusing on identifying the motorcycle in which the assailants came.
The CCTV footage from Lankesh’s home reportedly shows the suspected shooter passing in front of the home around 7:15 that evening, 45 minutes prior to Lankesh’s arrival. It would have been impossible for him to have followed the journalist from her work place, if he was in the vicinity of her home barely 45 minutes before her arrival.
Sources familiar with the Special Investigation Team probe say police are investigating if the two attackers received a tip-off that she had left office before positioning themselves at her home.
The CCTV footage has provided little clues to the identity of the killer or his accomplice, however. The shooter is wearing a helmet and a dark jacket. The footage from 45 minutes earlier shows him wearing a shirt neatly tucked into his trosuers. The footage also shows that the two men, who came on a motorcycle, parked behind Lankesh’s car before opening fire.
While the investigators’ assessment is that the attackers were not professionals, they think the two were aware of the CCTV camera at Lankesh’s home, tucked away in a quiet lane, beside two empty plots, in the Rajarajeshwari Nagar area.
With preliminary forensic evidence indicating that the 7.65 mm country-made weapon used to kill Lankesh was the same as used in the 2015 killings of Kannada researcher and scholar M M Kalburgi and Leftist thinker and rationalist Govind Pansare, investigators are also looking closely at the possible involvement of members of the right-wing Sanatan Sanstha outfit and its affiliates.
The Sanatan Sanstha had earlier been linked to the murders of Pansare as well as another rationalist, Narendra Dabholkar, who was killed in August 2013. “Every weapon leaves its own distinct signature on bullets and cartridges and the same weapon seems to have been used in these crimes. It could mean that one common group of persons is involved in these murders,” a police source said.