The law has done its duty, a top police officer said on Friday as questions were raised on the pre-dawn firing in which four men accused in the gang-rape and murder of a young veterinarian in Telangana were shot dead. The men had attacked the police and snatched weapons when they were taken to the crime spot for investigations, Cyberabad police chief VC Sajjanar said.
He also claimed all four had confessed.
"We had to fire in retaliation after the accused started hitting us with stones and sharp objects and snatched our weapons," said the police chief, asserting that the police had been restrained and had repeatedly asked the accused to surrender. Two policemen in the 10-member team suffered head injuries (not bullet wounds), he said.
"The law has done its duty. That's all I can say," the officer said to doubts raised on police claims.
The Telangana High Court has asked for the post-mortem video of the accused to be submitted and asked for the bodies of the accused to be preserved till Monday, 8 pm.
The accused, Mohammed Arif (26), Jollu Shiva (20), Jollu Naveen (20) and Chintakunta Chennakeshavulu (20), had been taken to the scene of the crime around 5.45 am for a reconstruction around the same time the woman had been raped and killed last week, the police said.
They were not handcuffed, say the police.
Interrogation over the past four days had revealed many details, said Mr Sajjanar, based on which the police team had taken the accused to look for the woman's mobile phone and other objects at the site where her charred body was found, around 50 km from Hyderabad.
"All four accused got together and started attacking the police party. Officers maintained restraint and asked them to surrender but without listening to us they kept firing. Our officers retaliated," Mr Sajjanar said.
The accused men, he claimed, had managed to snatch their weapons and use them easily because the guns were "already unlocked".
Within moments, the four accused were lying dead. Mohammad Arif and Chennakeshavulu were found holding guns, the police officer said.
The bodies were not moved from the site for hours, allowing a swelling crowd to catch a glimpse of the men reviled across the country for the horrifying crime. The people were seen cheering the police and showering rose petals on them.
The four, arrested a day after the crime, had been in custody of the police since Wednesday.
"In the last four days, we did DNA profiling, collected scientific evidence to prove the crime. We suspect the four were hardcore criminals, involved in other offences," said the police chief.
"My request is that when there are sensitive cases, don't get behind the officers. Let us investigate," Mr Sajjanar said.
On November 27, the men, all truck-drivers and cleaners, saw the 27-year-old woman park her scooter near a toll-booth on a busy highway. They allegedly deflated her scooter tyre and offered to help fix her scooter. Then they gang-raped her, strangled her and burnt her body to destroy evidence, according to the police.
The woman's father told news agency ANI: "It has been 10 days to the day my daughter died. I express my gratitude towards the police and the government for this. My daughter's soul must be at peace now."
Several celebrities and even politicians have praised the police but many sounded caution.