Hours before the burnt body of a young veterinarian was recovered near Hyderabad on Thursday, her distraught family, who could not contact her on her mobile, had to go from "one police station to another" as the cops could not decide if the case falls in their jurisdiction. The family has now sought speedy trial in the murder case, which has sent shockwaves across the nation, and has also demanded that the four accused, who were taken in custody on Friday, should not be given legal representation.
The 26-year-old veterinarian, who the cops suspect was raped before she was murdered, had gone missing on Wednesday night after she left from a hospital and was headed home. Investigations revealed that on her way back, she stopped at a toll booth, where she had parked her bike in the evening and took a cab to visit a dermatologist.
She last spoke to her sister at around 9:15 pm when she said that two men had offered to get her vehicle repaired but was she was "scared" because lorry drivers surrounded her. The family set out on a search for the 26-year-old at around 11 pm after they discovered that her phone was switched off.
"We thought her phone was off because it had no battery," the woman's father told NDTV. "After 11 pm, we went looking for her at the toll booth. We then decided to go to the cops but we went from one police station to another for more than half an hour. They couldn't decide if the case falls in their jurisdiction," he added.
"I sought help of two constables. At around 3 am, I eventually went on a lookout myself," he added.
The veterinarian's sister was the only one who spoke to her for about six minutes before she went missing. Recalling the last conversation, her sister said: "When she called up first, I asked her if there was there an accident as she told me that she was scared. She narrated how the men took her bike, came back and told her repair shop was closed. She told them 'I can go', but they insisted on helping. When I called up again after 15 minutes, her phone was off."
"I didn't panic because I assumed her phone didn't have battery. After 10 pm, when my mother called me, she was crying. I was at work and I left in an office vehicle with a colleague looking for my sister at the toll plaza," she further said.
A Telangana Minister on Friday said that the incident could have been averted if the young veteranian had called the police instead of her sister upon finding people around her behaving suspiciously.
"We are saddened by the incident, the police is alert and controlling crime. She was an educated woman, and yet she called her sister instead of 100. Had she called 100, she would have been saved. 100 is a friendship number, and we have to spread awareness on this among the people," Telangana Home Minister Mohd Mahmood Ali told news agency ANI on the sensitive issue.
Mr Ali later clarified to NDTV that he had only meant that it was a people-friendly initiative and women should use it in such times. "She is my daughter. I have lost a daughter today. I only meant that if the young woman had called 100, we may have had her with us today,'' he said.
On Thursday morning, the veterinarian's clothes, handbag, footwear and a liquor bottle were found by the police near the toll booth where she had parked her bike. Her body was found with 70 per cent burns under a bridge, in neighouring Ranga Reddy district, 30 km from the toll booth.
The body was identified by her family with the help of a locket of Lord Ganesh that she was wearing. It has been handed over to her family after the postmortem.
The police suspect that she may have been strangled, wrapped in a blanket, and set on fire after petrol and kerosene were poured on her. The bike was spotted about 10 km away from where her body was found.
The police has found CCTV footage of two of the suspects trying to buy petrol and Diesel at two petrol bunks.
Three 20-year-old men and a 26-year-old man have been arrested in the gangrape and murder. They work as lorry drivers and cleaners. All of them were arrested within 48 hours of the brutal murder
The police suspect the vehicle was deliberately punctured by the culprits to trap the woman.
Her father has demanded a speedy trial in the case. "The accused should not be given legal representation," he told NDTV.