Deputy Inspector General of Police D K Arya sits in front of five hooded suspects during a press meeting in Datia, about 75km from Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh yesterday. Police earlier said the suspects, all farmers, had confessed to gang-raping a Swiss tourist.
Police said yesterday they had arrested a group of farmers in their twenties who had confessed to gang-raping a Swiss cyclist in Madhya Pradesh, the latest in a series of shocking sex crimes in the country.
The woman was on a biking holiday with her husband in the central state when she was attacked on Friday night while putting up a tent in a remote forested area.
Her husband was tied up as she was assaulted and the pair were also robbed, police said.
Police officer M S Dhodee said five local men, illiterate small-scale farmers aged 20-25, had been arrested. A sixth suspect, 19, was detained in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh and was being returned to the area.
Dhodee said they had recovered a laptop, some cash and a mobile phone stolen during the assault, which occurred as the couple were getting ready to spend the night ahead of a trip to the Taj Mahal in the town of Agra.
“They were passing by, noticed the couple putting up their tent and saw an opportunity to attack and rape the woman,” Dhodee said.
“We found the laptop buried carefully under a pile of leaves, near some shrubs in the forest. The mobile phone was recovered from the home of the mother-in-law of one of the men,” he added.
The five arrested men face charges of rape and robbery. The sixth suspect is expected to face the same charges.
Their confessions to police will likely be inadmissible as evidence under Indian law, which rarely allows court prosecutors to cite such statements since they are seen as unreliable and involuntary.
The alleged rapists live in a village near the scene of the assault, which took place about 70km from the nearest town of Gwalior.
After the attack, the 39-year-old rape victim and her husband, a 30-year-old mechanic, stopped a motorcyclist who took them to the nearest police station, said SonntagsBlick, a Swiss German-language newspaper.
She underwent a medical examination at a local hospital before leaving for the Indian capital Delhi, police said.
The woman’s mother-in-law said in Switzerland that she had spoken to her son and the couple were recovering.
“This morning he phoned me to say they are in New Delhi and that they are both alright,” she said in a phone interview from the family’s farm in central Switzerland.
U C Shadangi, another local police officer, said that his force was in touch with the Swiss embassy who declined to comment about the case.
The couple arrived in Mumbai last month after visiting Iran and began a cycling holiday across India, making their way to Orchha, a popular foreign tourist haunt in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday, police said.
The Swiss foreign ministry in Bern released a statement on Saturday expressing deep shock at the “tragic incident.”
The ministry had issued an advisory for Swiss nationals travelling in India last month, warning that sexual violence was on the rise across the country, and urging both women and men to travel in large groups and with local guides.
In January, a South Korean student holidaying in Madhya Pradesh said she had been raped and drugged by the son of the owner of the hotel where she stayed.
That incident came just six weeks after thousands took to India’s streets in nationwide protests following the fatal gang-rape of a 23-year-old student on a bus in New Delhi.
The victim, a physiotherapy student died from internal injuries after being savagely assaulted by six men. One of her alleged attackers was found dead in his prison cell in New Delhi on Monday.
Police suspect he hanged himself, but his family says he was murdered. The government has since opened an investigation into his death.
Jail officials blamed for Tihar death
A probe into the death of a man suspected of gang-raping a student on a New Delhi bus last December blames jail officials for failing to monitor him adequately, a newspaper reported yesterday.
Ram Singh, one of six men on trial over the deadly assault which sparked mass protests across India, was found dead in his cell in the high-security Tihar Jail on Monday morning where he had been held since his arrest after the crime.
An investigation ordered by the government into his death has found three jail officials guilty of neglecting their responsibilities to check up on Singh, the Hindustan Times newspaper said, citing unnamed sources.
One of the men assigned to monitor Singh last Sunday night failed to show up at work, one of the sources with access to the confidential probe findings told the newspaper.
“There was no watch guard that night,” the source said.
CCTV footage showed that another warden who was meant to make rounds of the cells did not leave his office, another source told the newspaper.
A spokesman for the jail said the investigation findings were still being studied and declined to provide further details.
Prison authorities are facing serious questions about how the bus driver could have made a noose and hanged himself from a grille on the ceiling, without waking the other men in his cell or attracting attention from guards.
A postmortem examination last week concluded that he died by hanging, but did not resolve the question of whether he was murdered or committed suicide, as the jail authorities have insisted.
Singh was charged along with four other men and a 17-year-old over the brutal December 16 attack on a physiotherapy student who was lured on to a bus and repeatedly raped.
Left with horrific internal injuries, the 23-year-old died 13 days after the assault, leading to an outpouring of anger over endemic crime against women in India and a review of rape laws.
All five adult suspects including Singh pleaded not guilty to the charges.