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Was The Murderer Already Inside The Ryan International School Bathroom?

SIT probe suggests fuzzy timeline, several security lapses in murder of 7-year-old boy.

12/09/2017 4:50 PM IST | Updated 12/09/2017 7:31 PM IST
Hindustan Times via Getty Images
GURUGRAM, INDIA - SEPTEMBER 9: Police arrest accused Ashok for the murder of 7-year-old child, on September 9, 2017 in Gurugram, India.

Four days after a seven-year-old boy was found brutally murdered in his Gurugram school's bathroom, there are several troubling questions over the local police's investigation into the crime that has shaken up parents and prompted other schools to review their security.

While the Gurugram police have arrested a Ryan International school's bus conductor Ashok Kumar, 42, for the crime, a special investigation team (SIT) of the same police force has reportedly found that the evidence was tampered with, and that another person could be involved in the crime. They presented their findings to a court in Sohna.

According to the local police, Kumar was inside the bathroom when the child entered and was killed after a brief struggle. Kumar told India Today in an interview that he was masturbating when the child entered, and the conductor panicked and shoved the child, who fell. On the reporter's prompting, Kumar acknowledged on camera that he had tried to sexually assault the child, had been unsuccessful, and then stabbed him twice and slit his throat. Curiously, when Kumar showed where he had slit the child's throat, he pointed to the wrong side — the left ear and throat — though the fatal injury was to the right-side.

It is unclear if Kumar — who appeared calm on camera and answered questions without faltering — forgot how he allegedly killed his victim.

According to police investigation and eyewitness accounts, Kumar reached the school on 8 September as usual around 7:50 am, and entered the bathroom shortly afterwards. The child, who had been dropped to school along with his elder sibling by their father around five minutes later, reportedly entered the same bathroom alone.

As per the investigation, the child was murdered within 2-3 minutes of entering the washroom — around 8am — and was discovered shortly afterwards and rushed to hospital by his class teacher and some staff members. Investigation suggests that the time between the child entering the bathroom and being discovered was about five minutes, leaving little time for Kumar to commit the murder, clean the weapon, rush out of the bathroom without being noticed, and return when the body was discovered. Police have CCTV footage of the school premises, which helped them pin the case on Kumar. Two students have also reportedly testified saying they were changing their karate uniform when Kumar entered the bathroom, and they left soon afterwards.

However, the SIT has found that there was a broken window in the bathroom, from where an accomplice could have escaped. It is also unclear why the conductor did not try to escape even hours after the murder, but instead helped the bleeding child into the school vice-principal's Wagon R which was used to rush him to hospital. He then stayed back at the school.

Kumar has said that he found the knife that day in the bus, and was cleaning it in the washroom as he wanted to take it home for cutting vegetables. It is as yet unclear how the knife was in the bus and who it belonged to. Bus driver Raghav has reportedly told police that the knife was not part of the vehicle's tool kit. He alleged that he was beaten up in police custody and forced to say that the knife was part of the kit.

According to Kumar's alleged confession to the police of the sequence of events, he reached the washroom before the child. But the SIT's probe suggests that the child should have reached the washroom before Kumar, raising questions on the investigation and confession.

Several lapses in school security — a broken boundary wall, low quality of CCTVs, and lack of guards to ascertain that children were safely using the washroom — have all raised questions on the possibility of other culprits in the crime.

The murdered child's father has meanwhile alleged that there was a bigger conspiracy behind the murder, and asked for a CBI probe into the incident.

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