Shillong, April 27: An 18-year-old girl who had gone missing while returning from school eight days ago was today found dead ' possibly raped and strangulated by one or more assailants ' behind a bush adjacent to a busy road in the Meghalaya capital.
The victim, Arti Kumari Singh, was a student of Class XII at St Peter’s School and a resident of Karboum, near Lower Mawprem. She was previously a student at Gorkha Patshala in Mawprem and joined St Peter’s School only on April 17. Two days later, she went missing.
A police team found Arti’s body near Butcher Road, which passes by Anjalee Cinema Hall, this morning.
The contents of the post-mortem report were not divulged to the media, but officials investigating the murder did not rule out rape.
Superintendent of police A.R. Mawthoh said investigators had drawn up a list of suspects and would make arrests soon. “We hope to nab the culprit(s) soon,” he said, but declined to reveal any more information related to case.
The SP, however, did say that the girl may have faced sexual assault before murder. “Fierce resistance probably led to murder. It is also possible that the assailant or assailants apprehended trouble if the girl was allowed to go.”
Mawthoh said there were “signs” of sexual assault on the girl’s body apart from injury marks near her left eye, apparently the result of a vicious “punch”. The rope with which she had been strangulated was found near her body.
Shell-shocked family members ' Arti’s father, Ram Singh, is a schoolteacher in Smit ' retreated into a shell and refused to talk to anybody from the media. The Singh family had filed an FIR at Lumdiengjiri police station on the day the victim went missing.
Deputy superintendent of police H. Kharkhrang said preliminary investigations revealed that Arti was murdered the day she disappeared without a trace on the way back from school.
Another source said the girl probably knew the culprits. However, it has not been ascertained whether Arti was kidnapped or lured to the place where the assailants murdered her after probable rape. It has also not been confirmed whether Arti was killed at the very spot where her body was found.
Residents of the locality where the Singhs live said they were unaware of anybody threatening the girl or her family. Those who knew Arti well said she was an average student with a friendly disposition.
The police are understood to be looking for people who may have seen Arti with anybody after school hours on April 19. “If we find any witness, it will be easy for us to tie up the loose ends in the case,” a member of the investigation team said.