Hyderabad case: Police kill suspects in Indian vet’s rape and murder

Media captionPeople celebrate killing of rape-murder suspects

Indian police have shot dead four men suspected of raping and killing a young female vet in Hyderabad last week.

The men were in police detention and were taken back to the scene of the crime in the early hours of Friday.

The suspects were shot when they tried to steal the officers’ guns and escape, police told BBC Telugu.

The 27-year-old victim’s charred remains were discovered last Thursday – leading to outrage and protests over alleged police inaction.

After news of the killings broke, the victim’s mother told the BBC, “justice has been done”, while neighbours celebrated with firecrackers, and thousands of people took to the streets to hail the police.

  • Why Indians are celebrating the killings in Hyderabad

However, a law enforcement expert criticised the police’s actions, while adding that it was too early to say if the killings amounted to extrajudicial executions.

What happened on Friday?

Cyberabad police commissioner VC Sajjanar said that 10 armed policemen took the four accused men – who were not handcuffed – to the scene of the crime to reconstruct the incident early morning on Friday.

A suburb of Hyderabad, Cyberabad houses a number of global tech companies like Microsoft and Google.

The toll plaza where the rape and murder took place is close to the area.

He said they were looking for the victim’s phone, power bank and watch which were reported missing.

“The four men got together and started to attack the officers with stones and sticks and also snatched away weapons from two officers and started firing,” the commissioner said, in response to questions about why the men were killed.

“Although the officers maintained restraint and asked them to surrender, they continued to fire and attack us. This went on for 15 minutes. We retaliated and four accused got killed.”

He also said that two officers suffered head injuries, but added they were not caused by bullets. The men have now been admitted to hospital, he added.

“Let me tell you this. The law has taken it’s own course,” he said.

The police were heavily criticised after the rape and murder of the vet – particularly when the victim’s family accused them of inaction for two hours.

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Thousands protested outside a police station in Hyderabad after the rape case

How have the victim’s family reacted?

BBC Telugu’s Deepthi Bathini visited the family in their home, where neighbours could be seen celebrating the news by bursting firecrackers and distributing sweets.

“I can’t put it into words. I felt happiness but also grief because my daughter will never come home,” the victim’s mother said.

“My daughter’s soul is at peace now. Justice has been done. I never thought we would get justice. No other girl should experience what my daughter did.”

Media captionThe victim’s sister – who cannot be identified for legal reasons – spoke out after her sibling’s death

The mother added that she wanted the law on sexual assault and rape to be stricter.

“Men should be scared to even stare at women – because they will be punished,” she said.

The victim’s sister said the police action was “very unexpected”.

“I was expecting court trials and the court to deliver justice. This will not bring my sister back, but it is a great relief. Because of the police action, people will think twice before they do something like this again,” she said.

What about the wider reaction?

News of the police action has been widely celebrated on social media.

Many took to Twitter and Facebook to applaud the police, saying they had “delivered justice”.

The mother of a student who died after being gang-raped on a bus in capital Delhi in 2012 also hailed the killing.

“I am extremely happy with this punishment. Police have done a great job,” she told ANI news agency.

BBC Telugu reporter Satish Balla, reporting from the scene of the killings, said approximately 2,000 people had gathered, causing a huge traffic jam.

Vehicles have come to a standstill on the highway, where people are shouting “hail the police”.

At the scene of the encounter, people earlier showered the police with rose petals and distributed sweets, our reporter added.

Could the police have acted differently?

A few have also questioned the police’s version of events.

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Thousands of people gathered at the site of the encounter

Prakash Singh, a retired police officer and a key architect of police reforms, told the BBC the killings were “entirely avoidable”.

“Abundant caution should be taken when people in custody are being taken to the court or the scene of the crime,” he said.

“They should be secured, handcuffed and properly searched before they are taken out. All kinds of things can happen if the police are not careful.”

But Mr Singh said it was too early to say if the incident was an extrajudicial killing – known popularly in India as an “encounter killing”.

In the days after the rape and murder, thousands of people had protested at Hyderabad police station, insisting the killers face the death penalty.

Jaya Bachchan, a former Bollywood star who is now an MP in India’s upper house of parliament, said earlier this week that the accused men should be “lynched”.

“I know it sounds harsh, but these kind of people should be brought out in public and lynched,” she said during a parliamentary debate on the incident.

Several other MPs from across the political spectrum also condemned the brutal gang-rape and murder.

Elsewhere in the country, there were other protests and vigils for the victim, who cannot be named under Indian law.

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People in Delhi held a vigil on Saturday

How did the vet’s murder unfold?

The victim left home on her motorbike at about 18:00 local time (12:30 GMT) ten days ago to go to a doctor’s appointment.

She called family later to say she had a flat tyre, and a lorry driver had offered to help. She said she was waiting near a toll plaza.

Efforts to contact her afterwards were unsuccessful, and her body was discovered under a flyover by a milkman on Thursday morning.

Last week, three police officers were suspended when the victim’s family accused them of not acting quickly enough when the woman was reported missing.

Officers had suggested she may have eloped, relatives told the National Commission for Women, a government body.

Are women any safer in India today?

Rape and sexual violence against women have been in focus in India since the December 2012 gang-rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in the capital, Delhi.

But there has been no sign that crimes against women are abating.

According to government figures, police registered 33,658 cases of rape in India in 2017, an average of 92 rapes every day.