The loss of key CCTV footage related to the alleged Park Street gang rape has prompted sleuths to try and build their case on the statements of a woman who is considered a neutral witness.
Sources said officers from the detective department met the woman in her Narkeldanga house last week in their attempt to persuade her not to turn hostile during trial.
“The woman saw Ruman Khan, one of the three suspects in custody, talk to the complainant at a night club in a Park Street hotel on the night of February 6 last year. Soon after the complainant was gang-raped in a moving car,” said an officer of the detective department. “We have recorded the Narkeldanga resident’s statement and it is a clinching evidence to prove the accused guilty in court.”
The lost CCTV footage showed the complainant and the accused together near the parking lot of the hotel around the time the woman claimed she had left in a car with Ruman and others.
The investigators were banking on the footage, which has probably got overwritten, to nail the guilty as it was the only proof of the complainant and the suspects being “last seen together” just before the alleged crime, a crucial piece of evidence in the absence of any witness or conclusive medical report to prove sexual assault.
“The statement of the Narkeldanga resident can take the place of the lost footage in our attempt to establish that the complainant had been gang-raped. The woman will be considered a neutral witness in court. All efforts are on to ensure she does not turn hostile,” said an officer.
“The neutral witness played a vital role in tracking down the suspects. She later identified one of the accused in the test identification parade,” the officer said. One of the accused, Kadir Khan, is still absconding.
The police had sent four hard disks from CCTVs of the hotel to the central forensic science laboratory in Park Circus to retrieve the relevant footage. “Only one disk was relevant but the footage could not be found in it,” said an officer.