Gauri Lankesh killing: Are the investigators groping in the dark?

September 09, 2017 01:38 am | Updated 01:38 am IST -

Probe under way:  Members of the SIT investigating the Gauri Lankesh murder case, along with an FSL team, revisited the scene of the crime at Rajarajeshwarinagar in Bengaluru on Friday to gather more evidence.

Probe under way: Members of the SIT investigating the Gauri Lankesh murder case, along with an FSL team, revisited the scene of the crime at Rajarajeshwarinagar in Bengaluru on Friday to gather more evidence.

In what appears to be a desperate move to nab those involved in the murder of journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh, the Karnataka government on Friday announced a reward of ₹10 lakh to any individual who provides credible information on the killers to the police.

Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy, who held a meeting with the Chief Minister at the latter’s official residence ‘Krishna’, said the government was ready to provide additional personnel to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) which is probing the case.

“The team has been instructed to probe every angle. Only the probe can reveal the truth,” Mr. Reddy said.

Gauri Lankesh was gunned down by an armed assailant clad in a jacket and wearing a helmet outside her house in Rajarajeshwarinagar on September 5.

In spite of several sources, who are part of the SIT denying that they are groping in the dark, a retired top police officer said the announcement of a reward at such an early stage of the investigation indicates the police had little to go by from the evidence gathered at the crime scene.

“Although announcing a reward is normal practice, it is usually done at a later stage of the probe, and not within 72 hours,” said Gopal Hosur, former State intelligence chief.

For instance, the State police had announced a reward of ₹5 lakh for any clues that would lead to the arrest of two individuals suspected to be involved in Kannada scholar M.M. Kalburgi’s murder, only after releasing their sketches. Since the man who attacked Gauri was wearing a helmet, the police are unable to get the sketches done based on CCTV camera footage or eyewitness accounts.

The CBI team probing the murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar — who was killed in August 2013 — announced a ₹5 lakh reward in March 2017 for information on two accused, Sanatan Sanstha activists Vinay Pawar and Sarang Akolkar.

The reward announcement in the Gauri murder case does not ask for information on specific details.

“The first five to seven days after the crime is considered the golden hour. Leads that emerge during this period will be crucial. In the absence of any lead yet, the police may have announced a reward,” Mr. Hosur said.

A senior police officer said that announcement of reward such as the one made on Friday may see citizens reporting suspicious activity in their neighbourhood or providing information on abandoned two-wheelers which may lead to a breakthrough in the case.

However, another senior police officer who is part of the SIT said, “All that I can tell you is we are not groping in the dark. Our investigation is moving in the right direction. We are getting a lot of information from the general public. A few of them have genuine information.”

Assailant was a professional sharpshooter, say FSL sources

The Special Investigation Team (SIT), investigating the Gauri Lankesh murder case, on Friday revisited the scene of the crime with an FSL team to gather more evidence. A ballistic analysis by the FSL team confirmed that a country-made weapon was used to kill the journalist.

Every time a firearm is used, it will leave an abrasion mark on the cartridge. These striation are as unique as fingerprints. By the make and analysis of the ammunition, FSL sources said the weapon was country made.

However, it is only once the pistol is recovered that forensics experts can ascertain whether the shells found at the crime scene and the bullets used were fired from the same weapon, said an FSL source.

“Analysing the scene of crime and the pattern of firing, we can infer that the assailant is a professional sharpshooter. He is not a random contract killer but has had target practice before the attack,” the source said. “He was aiming at vital organs, which is the trademark of a professional.”

So far, the police have a blurry image of the attacker from the CCTV camera footage as the single piece of evidence. Apart from this, the case is blind and we are hoping on the other CCTV cameras, the footage of which have been obtained and being analysed for clues, a senior police officer said.

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