Nine months after 23-year-old Preeti Rathi became a victim of an acid attack that claimed
her life, the Mumbai Crime Branch sleuths have finally arrested the man responsible for the dastardly act.
Ankur Panwar, 23, Rathi’s neighbour in BDBB Colony at Narela in Delhi, had allegedly assaulted Rathi out of jealousy.
According to the police, Panwar’s father repeatedly taunted him for not being able to weave a successful career and gave him the example of Rathi. Rathi had secured a job in the armed forces.
On May 2 last year, Rathi was attacked at Bandra Terminus when she arrived there by the Gareeb Rath. The assailant, who wore a cap and had covered his face with a cloth, flung the acid on her face. Apart from Rathi, her aunt Sunita and a passer-by too sustained injuries in the attack. After battling for her life for a month, Rathi succumbed to her injuries on June 1.
Following a Bombay High Court order, the Crime Branch had formed a special team to probe the case.
After clearing the exams for the post of a nurse in the armed forces, Rathi was called to join the INHS Ashwini at Colaba as a lieutenant. Her aunt and uncle had accompanied Rathi to Mumbai.
According to police sources, their first clue came from the notes written by Rathi while she was at the hospital. “Her notes contained the names of earlier suspect Pawan, and Panwar, among others. These names were used only as those of people known to her,” said a crime branch source.
“Panwar’s parents knew Rathi’s family. Panwar had graduated in hotel management but was not successful in getting a job. He claims that his father used to taunt him regularly giving Rathi’s example. Out of jealousy and anger, Panwar hatched a plan to attack Rathi,” said Himanshu Roy, joint commissioner of police (crime).
Roy added that Panwar acquired the acid from the Delhi Electrical Supply Undertaking (DESU) workshop. “The DESU workshop is located close to his colony. On April 30, he managed to procure concentrated sulphuric acid and put it in a container,” said Roy.
Additional commissioner Niket Kaushik said: “Panwar boarded the same train as Rathi. He was traveling without a ticket and kept changing his positions to avoid getting caught. On May 2 morning, as the family was walking towards the subway, Panwar flung the acid on Rathi and fled,” said.
The accused then went inside the train again and watched the movements of the family. “After Rathi was rushed to the hospital, Panwar got off the train, changed the platform and took the first north-bound train after a few hours,” said deputy commissioner Ambadas Pote.
“Panwar had told his family that he had gone to Haridwar for a job interview in a hotel. But when we took him to that hotel, its staff denied calling him for an interview. He later revealed that after committing the crime he had fled to his cousin’s house in Gurgaon,” said assistant inspector Anil Dhole.
“Panwar had also sustained acid injuries on both his hands. His motive was to deface Rathi’s face, so that she can never get any job. We are going to ask for a death sentence in this case,” said Roy.
Panwar was arrested in Delhi on Thursday. He is in police custody till January 24.
When contacted, Preeti’s father Amar Rathi told dna: “I’m relieved the culprit has been caught. She was innocent. She had to go through a lot of pain. I expect the court to give him capital punishment.”
April 30, 2013: Ankur Panwar enters DESU workshop in Delhi and collects concentrated sulphuric acid in a jar
May 1: Panwar arrives at Nizamuddin railway station at 10.30am. Rathi family boards the train at 3.40pm
May 2: Train arrives at Bandra Terminus at 7.55am. Panwar hurls acid on Rathi’s face. Two hours later, Panwar takes a north-bound train
June 1: Rathi succumbs to her injuries after battling for a month at a city hospital
Dec 4: Case transferred to Mumbai crime branch after Rathi’s father approached the HC
Jan 16, 2014: Crime Branch officials arrest Panwar from Delhi
Jan 7: Court sends Panwar to police custody till January 24
Evidence against Ankur Panwar
The police have seized the Chyawanprash jar in which the acid was carried
Burnt marks found on both his hands
Statement of the hotel staff in Haridwar who denied having called Panwar for a job interview on May 2
CCTV footages of Delhi and Mumbai railway stations
Statements of those whom had travelled in the same compartment of the trains which were boarded by Panwar for Mumbai and return
Admission of his crime