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Key shocker in rape arrests

- Contract hands held
One of the cottages at the resort where the alleged assault took place

Thiruvananthapuram, Dec. 3: Kerala police today arrested two young migrant labourers and claimed to have solved the November 28 gang rape of an IT employee at an island resort here.

The police also confirmed an initial suspicion that shakes the trust tourists repose in the hospitality industry in unfamiliar places: one of the suspects allegedly got hold of the room key when the guest was shopping in the evening and tampered with the rear door to ensure easy intrusion at night.

Officers said both the accused were from Assam but spoke in broken Malayalam during the assault to confuse the victim, who is from Bengal but lives in Bangalore.

“Lakhinath, 20, and Presona Gam, 23, were staff members of Crows Pest Management, a private firm that had the contract for pest control at the Poovar Island Resort,” superintendent of police A.J. Thomas Kutty told a news conference here.

The resort is located on the edge of the backwaters at Pozhiyoor, about 30km from the state capital. Initial reports had spoken of assault by one person but Thomas Kutty, who produced the two accused before the media, said what had occurred was gang rape.

Deputy superintendent Y.R. Rustom, who was in charge of the probe, explained how his team had zeroed in on the duo.

“Initial suspicion had revolved round some room boys but that turned out to be misplaced, as a forensic examination showed that the hair strands recovered from the room did not match their hair,” Rustom said.

He said the “clinching evidence” came in the form of a few wooden beads found in the room. “They looked like they were from a wooden bracelet. From the hotel album, we found that there were only four people who used such bracelets. They included the arrested suspects who had taken off their bracelets after the crime,” Rustom said.

“They were kept under observation. Then we noticed scratches on their skin. Last evening, we detained them for questioning and they confessed their guilt.”

SP Thomas Kutty said the 41-year-old victim was part of a 30-member team that had checked into the resort on November 27.

“In the evening, when she went shopping, Lakhinath obtained the key to her room and removed three screws from the bolt on the rear door,” the officer said. “Around 1am, they tried to enter the room but the woman woke up hearing the door open (and) they slid away. They returned at 2.30am, entered the room and took turns to rape her while one of them pinned her to the bed.”

Thomas Kutty said the victim was physically agile and had kicked the second attacker midway and escaped.

The victim had said in her statement that the rapists spoke a language that would be either Malayalam or Tamil.

Asked about this, Rustom said both the accused had been in Kerala for a couple of years now and had picked up bits of the local language.

“They admitted they had used Malayalam words to confuse her. It was dark and she could not see their faces; so they must have thought that using the local language would keep them out of trouble for ever,” Rustom said.

He added that Presona Gam had been working at the resort for about two years while Lakhinath had arrived there a few months ago.

The SP refused to blame the resort for the delay in filing the FIR. Although the crime was committed at 2.30am, an FIR was registered only in the evening after the woman had got in touch with the security officer in her company in Bangalore.

“There was commotion at the scene after the woman raised the alarm but we did not come to know about the crime from the resort authorities,” Thomas Kutty had said on Sunday.

Asked about it today, he said that although the resort had delayed informing the police, “it did not constitute criminal liability”.

No resort official was available for comment till this evening.