The spot (circled) on Akra Station Road where the woman was allegedly dumped. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta
The young woman who was drugged and gang-raped in a car on Budge Budge Trunk Road on Thursday night had known the main accused as a charming suitor and trusted him enough to go where he wanted to take her.
Mohammed Shafiq alias Raj, the absconding rape accused who owns a mobile phone recharge shop in Maheshtala, would often buy the woman gifts, her mother said on Monday.
“Shafiq wanted to marry my daughter and she appeared to trust him,” she told Metro.
The 24-year-old mother of two, who is estranged from her husband and lives with her mother, had stepped out of home on Thursday evening to get puchkas for the kids and their cousins when she met Raj. The two of them apparently chatted for some time near Akra station in Maheshtala, around 12km from Taratala, before Raj hired a Tata Magic Iris for Rs 200 and asked her to accompany him.
According to the woman’s mother, Raj invited three other men to hop in, saying he would take them somewhere for a bite. “My daughter knew two of the faces well. And since Raj had asked her to accompany him to a nearby joint that serves the best puchkas and chaats in the neighbourhood, she had little hesitation in getting into the car. She trusted him to keep her safe,” the mother said.
That was around 7.30pm. The 24-year-old was found by the roadside on a deserted and dark stretch of Akra Station Road, off Budge Budge Trunk Road, around 11pm. Police quoted the woman as saying that Raj had given her something to drink that left her drowsy and unable to fight back when he allegedly raped her in the vehicle.
Raj is absconding but his alleged accomplices, all of them between 18 and 23, are in a police lock-up. A court on Sunday remanded the arrested quartet in police custody till August 6.
Two out of the four men drive Tata Magic taxis, a public transport vehicle that has replaced autorickshaws in many areas because they are faster and can carry more passengers.
The police traced Sukur Ali, the driver of the vehicle in which the crime was allegedly committed, on the basis of information provided by two of the other accused whom the woman knew.
Taj Qureishi, 23, works in a meat shop near Akra railway station while Sheikh Ziaul alias Chhotu, 18, drives another Tata Magic. Chhotu was at the wheel of the vehicle that Sukur drives when the alleged gang-rape occurred on the night of July 31, the police said.
Sukur’s helper, 18-year-old Bijoy Mullick, was the fifth man in the vehicle that night.
Investigators quoted the four co-accused as saying that they took the woman to a deserted stretch of Budge Budge Trunk Road at Kalitala, near the Achipur ferry ghat, and consumed liquor inside the vehicle before stepping out for a while.
“They said that Raj had asked them to leave him alone with the woman for some time,” an officer said.
The accused allegedly dumped the woman a few hundred metres from her home on the way back.
“The arrested persons told us that they did not dare drop her home for fear of getting into trouble,” the officer said.
“They claimed that she slipped and injured herself while getting off the Tata Magic car, although the woman said in her statement that she was pushed out of the moving vehicle, resulting in cuts on her right ankle and bruises on her hands.”
A relative of the woman said two men on motorbikes were the first to spot her lying by the roadside near Kamarpara. “We rushed to the site and took her to the police station in an auto. The police asked us to take her to a hospital first. We went to the ESI Hospital in Budge Budge, where we were told that a police complaint must be lodged before treatment starts. So we came back to the police station, lodged a complaint and returned to the hospital, where a doctor gave her first-aid and referred her to Vidyasagar State General Hospital,” the relative said.
Uttam Majumdar, medical superintendent of the hospital, sent swab samples for forensic examination to confirm whether the woman had been sexually assaulted.
Additional superintendent of police (west), Avvaru Rabindranath, said a team of officers met the girl at the hospital late on Sunday evening and recorded her statement. “We are raiding various locations for the main accused.”
The accused have been charged under Section 376D (gang-rape) of the IPC. If proved guilty, they will face a minimum punishment of 20 years in jail. The maximum punishment is a life term.