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Accused ‘familiar’ in mall worker assault

Rape accused Mohammad Hamid at an Alipore court on Tuesday. (Bibhash Lodh)

The 21-year-old woman allegedly gang-raped on Sunday night apparently knew the arrested prime accused but there is enough evidence to prove she was sexually assaulted, police sources said citing details that have emerged during the investigation.

Officers probing the case said they were in the possession of CCTV footage suggesting that the woman, who works at South City Mall, and prime accused Mohammad Hamid were together at the reception of a hotel in Kidderpore and then at Howrah station a few hours before and after the alleged incident.

Sources said the woman’s mobile phone records showed a call from Mohammad Hamid’s phone around 4am, “after he had dropped her there and left”. The call lasted over two minutes, they said.

However, police officers said familiarity with the prime accused did not dilute the nature of the alleged offence.

“Knowing Hamid doesn’t dilute the magnitude of the offence for which he has been charged. Her medical reports suggest she has suffered serious injuries. We are in the process of piecing together the sequence of events leading to the incident,” a police officer said.

The FIR drawn up on the basis of a complaint by the woman’s mother says she was raped by five men and dumped near Babughat, from where she walked till Howrah station alone early on Monday.

The mother told the police that “an unknown man” forced her into a car, aided by four others, and then they took turns raping her in a lorry in a deserted spot.

The woman, with whom the police had not been able to speak earlier, was examined on Tuesday at Belle Vue Clinic. She was shifted to the south Calcutta facility from a Howrah hospital on Monday at the chief minister’s behest.

“The woman said she had tried to resist Hamid and some people in the locality questioned why he was forcing her into the car. But he silenced them by saying she was his girlfriend. The woman, according to what she said on Tuesday, was then driven to a deserted place and raped by Hamid while the others pinned her down,” a police source said.

Hamid has apparently told the police that he was alone with the woman, to whom he had been introduced by a female acquaintance who works at the South City Mall. “He (Hamid) said he met the victim 10-12 days ago during one of his visits to South City, where he went often to meet another woman whom he refers to as didi,” joint commissioner (crime) Pallab Kanti Ghosh said.

Hamid also said that he did not allow the woman to go home after the alleged rape since she was bleeding profusely. “According to his version, he had waited for her to stabilise and then accompanied her to Howrah station. He has also admitted having called her sometime after he dropped her at the station to get an update about her condition,” a police officer said.

An Alipore court remanded Hamid in police custody for a fortnight.

The public prosecutor had sought a fortnight’s remand by saying that the police needed to find out from Hamid the whereabouts of the “four others wanted in this case”.

“Four of them are still at large and only Hamid knows about them,” he said.

No lawyer present in court was willing to take up Hamid’s case, prompting the magistrate to ask the court inspector to arrange for someone from the court’s legal aid cell to stand for him.

At Belle Vue, the woman was taken off saline drip on Tuesday and given solid food. She is on antibiotics to counter infection. A doctor said her injuries suggested “a violent assault”.

“We have sent a medical report to the police in a sealed envelope,” he added.

Sources said the police had found a bloodstained piece of cloth at the crime scene. The woman’s dress has been sent for forensic examination.