Girl, interrupted

The trap

Hailing from Suryanelli village near Kerala's Munnar hill station, the girl in 1994-96 got acquainted with the conductor of a private bus, named Raju. Previously a student of a residential school in Kottayam, she shifted to Little Flower School in nearby Nallathanni when she entered Class IX and often took this bus to her new school.

Raju, who would later become the first accused in the case, pretended to be in love with the girl. On January 12, 1996, he allegedly went to her school and forced her to come away with him on a trip, blackmailing her with the help of a family photo album of hers that he had managed to get from her classmate.

On January 16, under Raju's pressure, she took a bus in which he, too, reportedly travelled to downtown Adimali, and then changed buses for Kothamangalam. Somewhere during the journey, Raju, who was sitting away from the girl, got off the bus.

The first assault

Unknown to the girl, a woman named Usha was travelling in the same bus and keeping a close watch on her. Investigation would later prove that the bus journey was part of the conspiracy.

It was when the bus reached Kothamangalam at 8.40 pm that the victim realised Raju was not with her. As she could not return home that late in the night, the girl decided to go to her relative's house in Kottayam.

Usha reportedly got on the same bus as her for Kottayam. When they reached Kottayam, the girl developed cold feet about going to that relative's home, and decided to catch a bus to Mundakkayam, where another relative lived. However, there was no bus to Mundakkayam at that hour.

It was then that Usha reportedly approached the girl, calling her by name and introducing her to a "Sreekumar" who, she said, would take her to Mundakkayam.

... contd.

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