Kochi/Thrissur: Admitting to lapses on the part of the police in handling the Marine Drive rape and torture case, Inspector General of Police and Commissioner (Kochi city) C G Nagaraju said necessary steps would be initiated to avoid a repeat of such incidents.
Speaking to reporters after the arrest of the accused, 26-year-old Pulikkottil Martin Joseph in Thrissur, Nagaraju said the officer who had registered the first information report failed in reporting the matter to the higher-ups, despite the seriousness of the case.
A department-level enquiry has been ordered into the failure, the Commissioner said, adding that he realized the brutality the survivor had undergone only after seeing the visuals of the injuries inflicted on her.
Nagaraju attributed the delay in arresting Joseph to the lack of focus. If the police had the focus exhibited during the past two days, Joseph would have been arrested much earlier. A process to escalate complaints received at the local station level to senior officers would be put in place, the Commissioner said.
The survivor, a young woman from Kannur, had lodged a complaint against her live-in partner Joseph two months ago. Following police inaction, the survivor approached the media and revealed the trauma she had undergone.
The woman had been in a live-in relationship with Joseph for more than a year. The man, she said, had been abusive since February this year, and she was forced to the confinement of the rented accommodation in upmarket Kochi’s Marine Drive.
She fled the flat when Joseph had gone to get food. She later lodged a police complaint early in April.
CCTV visuals embarrass police
Police were left red-faced after visuals from CCTV cameras installed at the flat established Joseph’s presence even on the day on which the media reported the alleged crime. The visuals showed him leaving the apartment.
After the media made the brutality public, police swung into action. Incidentally, Nagaraju had then told the media that necessary steps would be initiated to avoid such delay in future.
Ten cases a month in Kochi
He added that the police were receiving at least 10 such cases on an average a month, and investigation into cases with serious nature would be strengthened. Most such cases have been going unreported since the attackers often threaten survivors into silence.
The commissioner said police would intensify probe in cases registered under similar sections as of the Marine Drive incident.
Nagaraju’s stand, meanwhile, was that police were probing the Marine Drive case. Police had opposed Joseph’s bail application in the Sessions and High Court, seized his passport, and issued a lookout circular to prevent him from fleeing the country. These steps have been pointed out to argue that the police were hot on the heels of the accused.
Three held for helping accused
Police have also arrested three others, Dhaneesh, Sreerag and John Joy, for helping Joseph evade arrest by arranging him hideouts and food. A search for two others, also suspected to have harboured the accused, have been launched.
Investigators have seized two cars, including a BMW, and as many bikes Joseph had used. He will be presented in court on Friday.
Source of income under probe
Investigators have decided to expand the probe into Joseph’s dealings, including his source of income to maintain an expensive flat on Marine Drive. Another case of assault, too, has been registered against the man. Police were investigating whether more women had fallen prey to the accused.
Police were at a loss to explain how Joseph had evaded cases despite his involvement in several criminal activities.
Local residents join team
Commissioner Nagaraju said joint effort by the police and around 300 members of the public, including civil defence volunteers, led to Joseph’s arrest. He especially lauded Ernakulam Centre Police Station House Office (SHO) Nissar and Thrissur Medical College SHO Ananthlal for their roles in arresting the accused.
The officer acknowledged the support local residents of Kiralur had extended to arrest Joseph. SHO Nissar and his team, had been camping in Thrissur for three days, and they identified the man’s hideout at Chemanchira around 6pm on Thursday, with the help of a team of shadow police, deputed by Thrissur City Police Commissioner R Aadithya.
Though a team under SHO Ananthlal surrounded the hideout, Joseph managed to give them the slip, and tried to flee through the nearby wetland.
Eyes in the sky
The police team and local residents waded through marshy lands, canals and walked through the thickets in the operation to nab Joseph. A task force, comprising teams of four local residents under each police officer, was formed, and two drones provided them eyes from above.
Realising that the search teams were closing in on him braving the hip-deep waters and forest, Joseph hid behind a house near the Industrial Estate at Ayyankunnu. As the search team found him, he darted again, with the police in pursuit. He found refuge atop a flat, but surrendered without offering resistance when the search teams surrounded the building.
Investigators said Joseph was without food for two days at Chemanchira after police had arrested three people for helping him. Police were suspecting that two local youths had provided cover for Joseph. They are on the run.