Police make public a boy accused in alleged rape and murder of Baitadi teenagerThe suspect is a teenage boy studying in the same school as the victim, said police.
Two weeks after a teenage girl was found dead in a forest in Baitadi, police on Wednesday made public a teenage boy on suspicion of his involvement in her death.
Police said the arrestee and the girl went to the same school—Sanatan Dharma Secondary School in Dogadakedar Ward 3 in the district.
On February 3, the girl, Bhagrathi Bhatta, 17, had gone to school. But she never returned home. Her body was found in a forest at Chadepani of Dogadakedar Rural Municipality-7 the next day.
Deputy Inspector General of Police Uttamraj Subedi, chief of Sudurpaschim Province Police Office, said the suspect is a neighbour of the victim.
“It was a premeditated murder,” Subedi told a press meet organised at the District Police Office in Baitadi to make the suspect public. “The suspect waylaid the victim and committed the crime.”
According to Subedi, the accused admitted to the crime during interrogation.
“As per the statement of the suspect, he dragged the victim to a bush, raped her and strangled her to death. He threw the girl’s cell phone battery near the incident site and moved towards his house at 3:20pm,” said Subedi.
The incident was a grim reminder of a murder that had taken place more than two-and-a-half years ago in Kanchanpur.
On July 27, 2018, Nirmala Pant, 13, was found dead. Police suspected someone had raped her before killing her. Police have yet to arrest the perpetrator(s). There was a nationwide outpouring of outrage in response to the police administration’s spectacular bungling of the case.
After Bhatta’s body was found, family members were worried that the culprit could go unpunished like in the case of Nirmala.
On February 9, the post-mortem report was submitted to police. Based on the report, police had concluded that someone had raped her before she was murdered.
Protests were held in different parts of the country, including in Kathmandu, to press the police for a fair investigation and to caution authorities not to repeat what they had done in Nirmala’s case.
Police said the suspect was under their surveillance ever since they launched their investigation.
“The suspect was detained from his home,” said Deputy Superintendent of Police Narayan Prasad Adhikari.
It is learnt that the suspect was detained on Tuesday night, as he was taken to a local hospital in the district for a check-up. However, police maintained that he was taken into custody on Wednesday.
There, however, were conflicting reports on the age of the suspect as well as the victim. While police at Wednesday’s press briefing said the suspect is 18 years of age and an 11th grader, the Nepal Police Headquarters in a statement said he is 16. The Nepal Police statement said the victim was 18 while, as per her family members and documents, she was 17.
The suspect was presented before the Baitadi District Court on Wednesday itself.
The court has remanded him to a five-day judicial custody.
Police investigation shows that Bhagrathi had reached school, an hour’s walk from home, on February 3 at 10am.
She was last seen in Khochlek Bazaar with two of her girlfriends at around 2pm.
She then took the Khochlek-Chadepani rural road to get home.
According to an investigating officer, the suspect left his school at around 1:45pm.
“Our investigation has revealed that the girl’s cell phone was switched off at 2:47pm on February 3. We suspect that the crime took place around the same time,” said Subedi. “Police took the suspect into custody based on pieces of evidence collected from the crime scene and the suspicious behaviour he displayed during interrogation.”
According to the police investigation, on the day of the incident, the boy had left his friends at Khochlek Bazaar. He then waited near the Labalek forest area for the victim to arrive while on her way home.
Police said when the girl arrived, he overtook her and dragged her some 30 metres below the road.
According to investigating officials, even though they had their suspicion on the boy, he managed to create confusion, as he had also attended the protest rally organised by students and local residents to demand justice for the victim on the day her body was found.
Police suspect that the boy committed the crime over a family feud, although it was not immediately clear what grudges he held against the victim or her family.
Officials said further investigation is underway.
According to police, the victim had sustained injuries on her head, around the neck, legs and had bite marks on her breast. The suspect also has minor bruises on his body, said police.
Meanwhile, the victim’s kin have expressed their dissatisfaction at the police investigation. They suspect the boy may not be the only one involved in the crime.
According to Shivaraj Bhatta, the victim’s uncle, Bhagrathi and the suspect are distant relatives.
“We believe that a single person could not have committed the crime. Police claim that the suspect was the only one involved, but we find it hard to believe,” said Shivaraj. “We are not going to receive the body until we are fully convinced with the investigation.”