A friendship struck on a social networking website led to the rape of a Mumbai-based married woman here this month, according to the district police.

Deputy Superintendent of Police K. Mohammed Shafi said two of the accused, Aneesh and Suresh, both employed in the Gulf and hailing from Kallara near here, had befriended the woman on the social networking site.

The woman, whose husband works as a salesman for a satellite television company in Mumbai, had become active on the online social networking site when she worked as a beautician in Bahrain. She subsequently married and settled in Mumbai and has a daughter.

Last month, Aneesh informed her that a shopping mall owner in Dubai was searching for a trained beautician to take charge of a cosmetic centre he had set up there.

He also told her that the mall owner's business associate, Suresh, who was also an online friend of the woman, would be in Thiruvananthapuram along with his partner for interviewing her, among other applicants.

Mr. Shafi said the woman took a flight to the city and met up with Suresh, who took her on a cab driven by one Manikuttan to the government guesthouse at Ponmudi, where the interview was slated to take place.

He told the woman that the mall owner would arrive only next day and she would have to stay overnight at the house of a friend near Kallara. Mr. Shafi said Suresh sexually exploited the woman in the house that night.

The shattered woman flew back to Mumbai but kept the incident secret. Matters came to a head a few days later when Suresh called her and said he had used a hidden camera to video-record their stay at the house.

Blackmail

He threatened her that he would post the video on the internet unless she paid him money.

Over the past few weeks, the woman paid Suresh, through online bank transactions, around Rs.2 lakh. Unable to meet his demands for money anymore, she attempted suicide at her house recently in Mumbai by slashing her wrists.

The woman's husband, who came to know about the incident, send an e-mail to State Police Chief Jacob Punnoose detailing how his wife had been cheated and raped.

Mr. Punnoose ordered Mr. Shafi to register a case and investigate.

The police investigation led to the arrest of the car driver, Manikuttan, on the charge of abetment of the crime. The police also booked Aneesh and Suresh on the charge of rape, cheating, kidnapping, and extortion. Mr. Shafi said efforts were on to secure their custody.