Under pressure, we let alleged killer go free: police officer

May 6th, 2009 - 4:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, May 6 (IANS) A man arrested as a suspect in 1995 in a case of rape and murder but released following a picketing of the police station confessed to have raped and killed three more women since then, a senior police officer said here.
The accused Mahanand Naik, 40, re-arrested in the last week of April in connection with a rape complaint, confessed during interrogation to have raped and murdered four women from 1994 to 2009. The police, however, suspect him to have killed three more women.

Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP) Serafin Dias confirmed that Naik was arrested in 1995, but the before the police could interrogate him, they were forced to let him go.

“We did arrest him, but were forced to release him prematurely after a ‘morcha’ (protest rally) picketed the police station seeking his release from custody. We could not interrogate him in the murder case then,” Dias said.

“If we could have, probably, a lot of lives could have been saved,” he added.

Police said that Naik was arrested in 1995 as a suspect for the murder of Vasanti Gawde from Marcaim in Ponda, south Goa.

Members of Vasanti’s family said that Naik, who is now being dubbed as the ‘dupatta-killer’ (stole killer) in the local media, because of his chilling penchant for strangling each of his victims with their own dupattas, was allowed to go scot-free following pressure exerted by a Congress politician.

“Had he been arrested then, he would not have been able to commit the other rapes and murders,” a family member told IANS.

Till date, the police claim to have confirmed Naik’s involvement in four murders committed in 1994, 1995, 2007 and 2009. Officials claim that there could be three other murders in which Naik was involved.

When contacted, Goa Pradesh Congress Committee president Subhash Shirodkar and a former legislator from Shiroda - the assembly constituency Naik hails from - said that he did not know the accused.

“I have no idea who he was. But the family was in fact against me. You can ask anyone. It is unfortunate what has happened,” he said, denying that he ever called the police to release Naik.

“He claims the first murder was in 1994. But we are looking into every case where a woman has gone missing from Ponda area in the last 20 years,” Dias said.

Meanwhile, GOACAN, a civil society pressure group, has also written to the director general of police (DGP) to initiate a full-scale probe into the inability of the police to follow-up the numerous missing complaints at the Ponda police station in the last 15 years.

“Very little attention was paid by the police to the various missing complaints filed by the family members of the women in the past. The DGP must call for the records of all such missing complaints of women from the police outposts and stations all over Goa,” GOACAN convenor Roland Martins told IANS.

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