2 years on, Kerala rape survivor snaps out of trauma to help cops nail 3 accused

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Shafi (30), Mohammed Faisal (28) and Mohammed Shabeel (28). Photos: Special arrangement.

Three names, a statement and a lot of phone numbers - this was what Kunnamangalam police in Kozhikode had to work with before they could pin down the accused in a rape case registered in June 2022. They couldn't move an inch for two years with the probe because the survivor had become emotionally unstable following the incident.
She was then 29, single mother of a newborn, who earned her livelihood working as a maid.

The accused Parayil Mohammed Shafi (30) from Melangadi, Kondotty, Markkassery Mohammed Shabeel (28), from Paradoor, Pattambi in Palakkad and Valliyil Mohammed Faisal (28), from Pulikkal, Kondotty in Malappuram, were arrested last week. They had befriended her on social media and repeatedly subjected her to brutal sexual assault in her residence. They repeatedly assaulted her, tried to pour hot water on her baby and tortured her.

The survivor turned up at the police station following the incident and filed a complaint. She gave a statement and named the persons who raped her. A day later, the woman, shattered and stricken by trauma, ended up in a care home under the social justice department. She had to be referred to a mental health care facility where she was admitted in 2022. The probe was stalled. The cops were advised not to collect any statements from her because of her fragile mental condition. All the police could do was to wait and check on her health.

In the meantime, she slipped into spells of emptiness and silence. Her kid was shifted to a child welfare centre. In June 2023, she was discharged and declared fit to leave. An NGO took her to its care home and inducted her in an inclusive community training programme. She was returning to a sense of normalcy. She would go with the care home staff and visit her child, she bought gifts for her baby, the care home staff said. She also started working, shelling out savings from her meagre income to buy things for her kid.

The police had waited long enough. When she was ready, they again collected the statement in December 2023. The names were exactly the same as she had said two years ago. The cops felt confident. She told the cops that she wanted justice.
She had kept a diary and an old keypad phone; both stored with random numbers. There weren't names, just numbers; some incomplete, some jotted down with just the last digits. She had a way of recollecting those numbers.
Every single number was picked up and sorted by the police; there were hundreds of them. The police knew they had to navigate the maze of these numbers to reach the accused who had even begun to think they had gotten away with what they did to her. The cops started trying each number; some of them had been discontinued while others had new owners.
The task was to match the numbers with the names and then track them down.

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Kunnamangalam inspector S Sreekumar and SI Saneeth C. Photo: Special arrangement.

Days of search yielded no result. Finally, one number matched and to the relief of cops, it was live. They sourced an old photo and even then it wasn't sure if it was the same guy. Since the phone was on, the location was identified and it showed Kozhikode town. A team of cops, led by SI Saneeth C, rushed to Kozhikode town. A distant glimpse of a person and Saneeth had a hunch that this was the guy.
But soon, the person rode away in a two-wheeler. The cops were disheartened. They had their guy and he just vanished right in front of their eyes. “Soon we saw him coming back, we waved at him, halted his vehicle, confirmed his name and address and nabbed him,” said Saneeth. Once they had one accused, it was easy from then on. “All of them were in touch and we could take the others into custody,” police said.

Three inquiry teams arrested the accused from Kondotty, Kozhikode and Malappuram.
“They had changed their numbers, some of them changed it twice. But they hadn't changed their mobile phones. We collected the IMEI of the device and traced the SIM cards even though they had discontinued its use. We could identify the accused and traced their location as we managed to find their address. We collected their photos and showed it to the survivor who instantly recognized them,” said Kunnamangalam inspector S Sreekumar who led the investigation.
The police had the time of occurrence of the incident. The call detail records and tower location of the accused matched the timeline police had constructed. The accused confessed to the crime after being bombarded with evidence, police said.

Sub-inspectors Saneeth, Santhosh, Suresh, Assistant Station Inspector Leena, senior civil police officers Vishobh and Ajeesh, and civil police officer Vipin were in the team.
“We were determined to find the accused in the case. We followed it up and we were patient until the survivor was ready,” said Sreekumar.

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