Nearly six months after Preeti Rathi, an acid-attack victim who died after her assailant threw concentrated sulphuric acid on her face, the Mumbai police on Friday arrested her 23-year-old neighbour Ankur Panwar, the police said.
The police claimed the motive behind Mr. Panwar resorting to such an act was because he was tired of the frequent taunts of his father praising Ms. Rathi — who in April, 2013 managed to clear her Navy exams and was asked by INS Ashwini in Mumbai to come for a job interview. Overcome by jealously, he hatched the deadly plan, the police said.
“The accused and the victim knew each other and were residents of the same colony in Nareal in New Delhi. The families shared a good rapport. Mr. Panwar managed to clear his hotel management exams but wasn’t successful in getting a job. On the other hand Ms. Rathi cracked the Armed Forces exams. The accused's father used to eulogize Rathi and admonish his son. This spited him and he decided to kill her,” Joint Commissioner of Police, Crime, Mr. Himanshu Roy told the press.
According to the police , on 30th April, Mr. Panwar managed to sneak into the storage-cum-workshop of the Delhi Electricity Supply Undertaking located in his neighbourhood and collected acid in a ‘ Chyavanprash’ can. He was aware that Ms. Rathi was boarding the Garib Rath train to Mumbai. He went to the Delhi station in the morning and waited for the train which was scheduled to depart the afternoon. He travelled ticketless and mostly through the journey covered his face and wore a cap.
“During the course of his journey he looked for an opportunity to throw the acid on her face but didn’t manage to get any. It was only when the train pulled in at the Bandra Terminus and Ms. Rathi alighted, he patted her back and threw the acid and fled,” added Mr. Roy. Ms. Rathi’s aunty and a co-passenger on the railway platform also sustained minor burn injuries. Taking advantage of the crowd, the accused fled but hovered around the station for the next couple of hours and later in the afternoon took a train to Delhi.
On the plea made by the victim’s father, the Bombay High Court transferred the case to the Mumbai police last month, six months after the crime was committed. This made the investigations a difficult job but the first clue was the statement that Ms. Rathi gave to the Government Railway Police (GRP) that initially investigated the case.
“Because of the attack her throat got damaged and she couldn’t speak. The GRP gave her a questionnaire and for the question ‘Who did she suspect that the attacker looked like?’ She answered Ankur. That’s when we started looking for a person named Ankur,” said a source.
The suspicion only grew when the police found out that Mr. Panwar wasn’t in Delhi the day Ms. Rathi was attacked. In his initial statement, he told the police that he was in Haridwar for a job interview. The police crosschecked his alibi and found it to be incorrect. Mr. Panwar was also not able to explain the minor burn marks he had on his hands. The police claimed that Mr. Panwar sustained minor injuries while flinging the acid hurriedly on the victim.
“We checked with the hotel where he claimed to had gone for an interview, the hotel said that there was no such interview slated,” added sources.
The mobile tower location of Mr. Panwar’s phone also confirmed that he had travelled from Delhi to Mumbai on the day of the incident. The CCTV footage procured from Delhi and Mumbai railway stations also identified him.
“We have recorded the statement of the ticket-Checker and the co passengers who have identified Mr. Panwar. We have also procured the can in which he collected the acid” added the source
The police have booked Mr. Panwar under section 302 (Murder), 326(A) (Voluntarily causing hurt by use of acid) and 326(B) (Voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid). He has been remanded to police custody until 24th January.