Over the past couple of weeks, the dense forests of Adoormala on the eastern border of Kerala with Tamil Nadu were playing witness to a cat-and-mouse game between a young couple and a team of police officials. More than a few times, the couple came eye to eye with the cops, only to slip away. On Tuesday this week, that game came to an end when the police nabbed the 21-year-old youth and charged him with abducting and raping a 17-year-old girl, with whom he was hiding in the forests.
A police officer who was part of the investigating team, told indianexpress.com that the search operation began on January 6 when her family reported the disappearance of the teenager.
“It was a Sunday. According to the complaint, she had gone to attend mass at the local church and never returned home. When we searched the house, we found her diary in which there was a cellphone number. It was a number that she had been using and was registered in her father’s name. When we checked the call history, it led us to the youth who was the last person to call on the number on January 6,” the officer said.
The youth incidentally was employed in plucking arecanuts at a farm owned by the girl’s family and had purportedly met her at a funeral home where they exchanged cellphone numbers. He reportedly told police that he planned to elope with the girl after she threatened to kill herself.
Police were able to confirm the couple’s location near the hill station of Ilaveezhapoonchira on the basis of cellphone signals. By then, the duo had retreated deep into the forests where they spent the next three weeks living in rock-cut caves, on tree-tops and feeding on just coconuts, fruits and tubers. The couple would constantly shift from one spot to another to evade the police.
A police official said he was baffled how the duo were able to survive for so long in the forests, eating bare-minimum food and barely any roof over their heads. “It’s beyond our imagination how they lived like that. But I must say that the youth is well-versed with the forests and the surroundings. He can climb tall trees and pluck coconuts. Quite a few times, we could see him sitting on top of a rock a bit far away. But when we went closer, he was gone,” he said.
On Tuesday, the duo finally came out of the forest with two sacks filled with produce and on seeing the police, they fled in different directions. The girl, who was tired physically, was rescued from a neighbouring home where she had sought shelter. On a tip-off from locals, the youth was located and arrested the same day. He’s currently in police remand at the Peermade sub-jail. The minor girl has been sheltered at a care home.
The case, under sections of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, is registered in Kottayam district.