A boy’s vivid description of the suspect’s autorickshaw led to the arrest of the accused, writes G. Anand.

“Look out for an auto-rickshaw with the name Rajamma and depicted with picture of Mother Mary cradling infant Jesus”.

On March 12, law enforcers heard this terse message repeated with urgency over their wireless sets. The transmission would lead to the arrest and subsequent sentencing to death of a 30-year-old man on the charge of raping and strangulating a minor girl when she was alone at her house in Vembayam six days earlier on March 6.

Two of her friends had witnessed the minor talking to an autorickshaw driver, whose vehicle had apparently developed a snag in front of the girl’s house. The children were vague about the driver’s appearance and his vehicle’s details.

Circle Inspector K.R. Baiju, the investigating officer, who the court would later commend for his successful detection of the case, heard rumours that another passerby, a child who was tailing his parents’ home on foot, had also seen an autorickshaw parked in front of the girl’s house.

Investigators compared the search for the elusive child witness, whose account would prove to be a turning point in the case, with that of the proverbial quest for the needle in the hay stack.

The boy had heard “a stifled scream and a rasping cry” while in front of the victim’s house. A sudden fear gripped him and he ran to join his parents. His mother reassured him the sound was from the television. It was the boy’s vivid description of the autorickshaw that would lead the police to Rajesh.

Forensic serological analysis, digital proof that the suspect’s mobile phone was at the location of the girl’s house when she was killed, and recovery of her jewellery from a pawn shop on the basis of his statement, helped the prosecution win their case.

A solemn silence fell over the imposing “D One” court hall in the century-old landmark building when District Judge B. Sudheendra observed tenderly that the minor “could not even see 16 summers”. Minutes later he pronounced that the accused be “hanged by the neck till he is dead”.

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