In a crime that is rapidly gathering casteist and political overtones, two teenage girls from a backward community were raped and murdered allegedly by three brothers of the Yadav community in the village of Katra in this district.

The girls, who were cousins, had left their house together at 9 p.m. on Tuesday and walked toward the nearby open field as there was no toilet at home. Their bodies were found hanging from a tree 250 metres away from their home at about 4 a.m. on Wednesday after neighbours and relatives began a frantic search.

“We have arrested one of the brothers, Pappu Yadav, and a hunt is on for the other two,” DIG Bareilly R.K.S. Rathore told The-Hindu. The State government on Thursday suspended three policemen, including constable Sarvesh who has been detained for interrogation. The others are Katra Saadatganj police outpost in-charge Ram Vilas and head constable Chatrapal.

IG (Special Task Force) Ashish Gupta said autopsy confirmed the cause of death of the two girls as “ante-mortem hanging”. It was also “indicative of rape.”

Although the parents informed the police immediately after the girls failed to return, the policemen asked them not to worry. The villagers immediately fanned out in all directions to trace the girls. After the bodies were found in a mangrove, they informed the police, who however made no effort to come to the crime scene.

Only when irate villagers gathered and sought action against the killers and the police chowki staff did the policemen reach the spot. The villagers, however, did not allow the policemen to lower the hanging bodies, but relented after local politicians BSP MLA from Jalalabad Neeraj Maurya, Bhagwan Singh Shakya of the Maurya Samaj and Brijpal Shakya of the Congress pacified them.

Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav justified the suspension of three police officials charged with laxity.

(With additional reporting by Atiq Khan in Lucknow)