Mumbai

Cops use tech to nab serial rapist

One year and 11 days of investigation, 500 hours of CCTV footage, dump data of one crore mobile networks and a dedicated WhatsApp group for updating information on the ‘serial rapist’ led to the arrest of accused Rehan Abdul Rashid Qureshi (34) by the Navi Mumbai Crime Branch on Wednesday.

“A dedicated room with a projector was set up at the Anti Extortion Unit just to watch five tetrabytes of CCTV footage,” Senior Police Inspector Shirish Pawar from the Anti Extortion Unit said. Using the CCTV footage, the officers studied the suspect’s hairstyle, mannerisms and gait. “He had a different style of walking. He moved only one hand with a slight tilt to his body. Our team studied him thoroughly in order to identify him,” Navi Mumbai Police Commissioner Sanjay Kumar said.

Distraction tactics

Officials had started procuring dump data after a few cases of molestation and rape in Navi Mumbai from April 2017 were reported to have the same modus operandi. A Crime Branch officer said, “We worked on the dump data for almost six months, but we got no results. In April 2018, after a minor was molested in Nerul, we found CCTV footage of the accused at Nerul station talking on the phone for close to six minutes. We, however, did not find details of the call in the dump data. That is when we realised that the accused was possibly using the phone just to misguide us. He is captured on the CCTV cameras talking on the phone, but he was never having a real conversation with anyone. He made sure not to make or receive any calls while he was on the crime scene.”

After three more cases of molestation were reported in Nallasopara on September 13 20, and 21, the police gathered crucial evidence. The officer said, “We spotted in the footage that the accused went to Mira Road station after committing the crimes in Nallasopara. For close to one year, we only saw him boarding trains to Thane, but we finally found his destination.”

Keeping close watch

Officers from the Mumbai Crime Branch and the Thane Crime Branch also launched a hunt for the accused in Mira Road. However, the Navi Mumbai Crime Branch officers were able to nab him because of their thorough study of the suspect. “We could identify him even from a CCTV footage that was dark and had only shadows. We had a general idea of which route he possibly took after alighting at Mira Road station. So we laid a trap there. We identified him from a very long distance and nabbed him,” said Assistant Police Inspector Rahul Rakh, Crime Branch Unit I. Mr. Rakh and Police Sub Inspector Yogesh Waghmare from the Central Unit identified the accused and nabbed him.

Well-dressed and smart

The accused is a Class XII graduate and worked as a salesman till six months ago. He stayed in Mira Road with his brother and mother. His elder brother works in Dubai. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch), Tushar Doshi, said. “Being a salesman, he was always well-dressed and had the smartness to allure people. While searching his house we found a passport, which had a Parel address, a laptop and clothes he used while committing the crimes.”

The laptop and mobile phone were seized and sent for forensic examination. It will be verified if he had clicked pictures of the victims as one of the victims had claimed in her statement. During the search, the police also found documents of a case where he was arrested by the Taloja police in 2015 for molesting a minor. The accused has so far been involved in 15 cases, of which seven cases are registered with the Navi Mumbai police, three in Palghar, two in Mumbai, two in Thane Rural and one in Thane.

Premeditated attacks

A Special Investigation Team, headed by an Assistant Commissioner of Police and comprising four officers, has been formed to investigate the case. Senior Police Inspector Sandeepan Shinde from Unit I said, “We need to find out how he chose his victims. In the footage he is seen loitering near the crime scene, and watching the targets for close to three hours before attacking them.”

The police said that the accused showed no remorse after his arrest. An officer said, “He has not confessed to any of his crimes and has been feigning ignorance. Once he said that sometimes something happens to him and then he doesn’t recollect anything. We will be sending him for psychological tests to find if he is mentally fit.”

Long way to go

An officer said that having facial recognition feature in the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems could have helped identify the accused from the CCTV footage as the Taloja police had arrested him in 2015. The officer said, “The system has issues even with uploading a photo, face recognition technology is a distant dream for us.”

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Printable version | Aug 6, 2020 8:03:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/cops-use-tech-to-nab-serial-rapist/article25062773.ece

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