The suspect in the rape and murder of a six-year-old girl in Hyderabad was found dead on railway tracks this morning, two days after a Telangana minister warned that the accused would be caught and eliminated in an "encounter". The police called it suicide.
"This looks to be a clear case of suicide as of now," said Tarun Joshi, the police chief of Warangal, where the body was found.
The police shared images of the body on Twitter and said it had tattoos that helped identify the dead man as Pallakonda Raju, the rape-murder suspect.
#AttentionPlease : The accused of "Child Sexual Molestation and murder @ Singareni Colony, found dead on the railway track, in the limits of #StationGhanpurPoliceStation.— DGP TELANGANA POLICE (@TelanganaDGP) September 16, 2021
Declared after the verification of identification marks on deceased body. pic.twitter.com/qCPLG9dCCE
"We have reasons to think it is the suspect - tattoo marks on hands, name tattooed on his hand, his hairstyle... A fingerprint analysis will confirm it," the Hyderabad police chief said.
According to Tarun Joshi, a railway employee had seen the man walking on the tracks and had tried to save him but he was hit by a train.
News of the death came after Telangana Minister Malla Reddy's comment on Tuesday that the accused "will be killed in an encounter".
"We will catch the rapist and murderer. There will be an encounter after he is caught," Mr Reddy had told reporters in Hyderabad.
So far, only circumstantial evidence ties 30-year-old Raju, a neighbour of the child, to the crime. He was allegedly a drunk and was known for "deviant behaviour" but had no criminal record.
The police had released his photo and had announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for any information on him.
The girl was found dead inside Raju's house a week ago and he had been missing since.
The girl went missing from her home in Singareni Colony in Hyderabad on September 9 (Thursday). Her body was found in the house of the neighbour the same day, wrapped in a bedsheet. An autopsy confirmed that she was sexually assaulted and strangled.
Reports the same day had first said the accused had been arrested. But when it emerged it was not true, there were massive protests in the area. Some even demanded "an encounter", referring to criminals shot dead by the police.
Minister KT Rama Rao tweeted on Raju's death: "Just been informed by @TelanganaDGP Garu (police chief) that the beast who raped the child has been traced and found dead on a railway track at station Ghanpur."
Mr Rao had earlier retracted a tweet announcing the suspect's arrest on the same day.
Would like to correct my tweet below. I was misinformed that he was arrested. Regret the erroneous statement— KTR (@KTRTRS) September 14, 2021
The perpetrator is absconding & @hydcitypolice has launched a massive manhunt for him
Let's all make our best efforts to ensure he's nabbed & brought to justice quickly https://t.co/IVz9Ri7jzn
Several politicians, activists, and even film stars expressed anger and shock and social media users appealed for justice for the girl and her family.