SRINAGAR, India (AFP) – Indian police have arrested a woman and four others after her nine-year-old stepdaughter was allegedly gang-raped, murdered and mutilated, in the latest horrific crime to shock the country.
The child’s decomposed body was found on Tuesday hidden behind bushes about a kilometre from her home in the Baramulla district of Indian-administered Kashmir, police said.
Her father had reported her missing 12 days earlier.
Police said the woman, aged 36, was jealous of her stepdaughter and of her husband’s second wife, and on August 24 took the girl to a forested area.
There she allegedly directed her own 14-year-old son and his two teenage friends, aged 14 and 19, to take turns in raping the child.
The stepmother is accused of then strangling the girl while her son hit the child on the head with an axe.
His friend brought vehicle battery acid from home and sprinkled it on the body while another friend gouged out her eyes before dumping the corpse in the bushes.
A 28-year-old man has also been arrested over the case.
“Physical condition and preliminary forensic analysis of dead body substantiated all these facts,” said a police statement issued on Tuesday.
Local police Superintendent Imtiyaz Hussain told AFP the teenage offenders have confessed to the crime and separately corroborated the facts during questioning.
“They will be sent to a juvenile home and dealt with according to the state’s juvenile law,” Hussain said.
According to the National Crimes Records Bureau, in 2016 the rape of minor girls increased by 82% compared with the previous year.
Nearly 39,000 sexual assaults occur in India every year. Across all rape cases, 95% of rapists were not strangers but family, friends and neighbours.