Burqas and decoy ambulances used to transfer gangrape patient

Safdarjung hospital

The secret operation to transfer the 23-year-old gangrape survivor from Safdarjung hospital to Palam air force station, before she was flown to Singapore on Wednesday night, saw hospital authorities and the police jointly making elaborate preparations all day, culminating in a 15-minute sequence that saw two apparently hoax ambulances being set up, before the Medanta ambulance with the patient left around 10.30 pm.

Sources said the hospital administration got the formal confirmation to shift her on Tuesday evening. After getting the nod from cardiac surgeon Dr Naresh Trehan, who visited the hospital around 11 am on Wednesday and whose Medanta hospital was providing the road and air ambulances, the hospital was informed that passports had to be arranged for the patient and her family.

Soon, sources said, a Muslim patient was admitted in the ICU. "We made sure that his burqa-clad relatives were seen going up and down, taking the stairs in the ICU. After that, a photographer went up in a burqa to the ICU to get pictures of the victim, so that he would not attract any attention," a source said. The pictures of the family were also taken in the waiting room outside the ICU. The forms were filled by the family at 3 pm and the passports arrived by 5 pm while arrangements for visas on-arrival were made.

The first instructions to start identifying a hospital where the woman could be shifted came to Safdarjung hospital authorities on Monday evening, sources said. Hospital authorities were apparently keen that she be taken to Europe, and identified two centres — one in London and the other in Germany.

But on Wednesday morning, Medanta authorities informed the hospital that the maximum flying time of their air ambulance was only six hours. "Germany would have taken eight hours and London nine hours. When we were told about this, the only possible destination within this flight time was Singapore," a source said. Mount Elizabeth hospital with expertise in organ transplants was picked, although sources said the hospital does not have experience in intestinal transplants which the victim will eventually need.

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