How Many Cases Does it Take to Make a Serial Killer?

Inspector Jagminder Singh Dahiya of the Begumpur police station, and the investigating officer for the 14 July case. ISHAN MARVEL FOR THE CARAVAN
08 October, 2015

On the afternoon of 5 August 2015, I waited outside the court of Vinod Yadav, the Additional Sessions Judge at the district court for north-west Delhi, in Rohini. The doors opened at around 1 pm, and out came a seven-year-old boy, with one hand held by his mother and a juice box in the other. He was about three-feet tall, and had a deep scar across his neck.

I was allowed to read the boy’s transcribed statement, according to which, on 3 June 2014, three men—identified as Ravinder Kumar, Dharmender, and a juvenile—abducted him from his house and took him to an abandoned building, where Kumar raped him. Then, they shoved a piece of brick up his anus, slit his throat with a blade, and dumped him in the septic tank outside the building before daylight. Prior to losing consciousness, the child managed to tie his shirt around his neck to try and stem the bleeding. Despite his condition, he survived until the police came looking for him later that night, with Kumar in custody.

Kumar, a 24-year-old from Badaun in Uttar Pradesh, was first arrested last June, along with the said accomplices for the abduction, rape, and attempted murder of this child in Jain Nagar. The accused were granted bail on 20 May this year. Less than two months later on, 16 July, Kumar was arrested from his house in Sukhbir Nagar for the alleged rape and murder of a six-year-old girl, also in Jain Nagar. Kumar’s family has since moved to the nearby Utsav Vihar.

In the second case, Kumar was arrested on the basis of a driver’s license and transport papers found at the crime scene that belonged to Sunny, a bus operator from Sukhbir Nagar. Upon interrogation, Sunny claimed that, on the evening of 13 July 2015, Kumar—who worked for him—Kumar’s brother Sunil, and another juvenile accomplice had attacked him in Utsav Vihar and stolen his motorcycle, papers, phone and Rs 2000.

By this time, Kumar has already garnered a reputation as one of Delhi’s most notorious serial killers with the number of murders attributed to him varying from 15 to 40. During the course of my reporting, I discovered that uncertainty would become integral to his story. While the police claimed that they had confirmed Kumar’s guilt in 12 out of the 28 cases he reportedly confessed to, the metropolitan magistrate of the north-west district, Sushil Anuj Tyagi, announced during a hearing on 19 August at Rohini district court that the police had marked 15 cases against Kumar. Meanwhile, Kumar’s lawyer, Abhishek Shrivastav claimed that there were only three ongoing matters against his client: two from Samaypur Badli and Begumpur police stations at Rohini district court, and one from Sarai Rohilla police station at Tis Hazari district court.

On 7 October, after telling me week after week that “the chargesheet will be filed within a couple of days,” Inspector Jagminder Singh Dahiya of the Begumpur police station, and the investigating officer (IO) for this year's July case, confirmed that the chargesheet for his case had finally been filed on 30 September. Dahiya claimed to know nothing of the rest of the cases. “I can only talk of my case, I don’t know about the others.” He added, “Mere waale case mein toh isko faansi zaroor hogi”—In my case, he will definitely be hanged. Shrivastav was unaware of any chargesheet filed against his client.

The septic tank in Jain Nagar where the seven-year-old boy was found on 3 June 2014. ISHAN MARVEL FOR THE CARAVAN

According to Dahiya, Kumar has confessed to around 40 similar crimes since his arrest in July, all of whose targets were children. “The SHO [Station House Officer] was on leave, so I was in charge,” Dahiya told me, explaining how Kumar confessed after “sustained interrogation through psychological means”—a phrase whose definition went unexplained. According to these confessions, Kumar’s first victim was a minor girl abducted from a metro construction site at Majri Gaon, Karala in 2008, when Kumar was 17-years-old. Vikramjit Singh, the District Commissioner of Police (DCP) for the outer district of Delhi told me that the victim’s family were migrant workers who cremated the body and left the area. The crime was never reported and subsequently not included in the court charges, like 12 others from Kumar’s confessions, including similar crimes that occurred in Bahadurgarh, Noida and Ajronda, Faridabad.

Dahiya explained that these unreported crimes, and most of the others that Kumar was suspected of committing occurred in and around jhuggi-jhopris—temporary houses—and construction sites. “At some places, the people and even the sites were already gone by the time we started investigation this year [after Kumar's arrest in July]. Ravinder told us about the spots where he had dumped the bodies, along with details about the victims. Then, we took him to those spots, and asked local residents, who corroborated what he had confessed,” Dahiya explained. For instance, in an unreported case from 2013 in Noida, where Kumar had confessed to the murder of a seven or eight-year-old girl from somewhere between the sectors 72 and 76, the police simply asked people from the nearby fields whether a body had been found there around then. “That's how it works,” Dahiya said.

As to why Sunny’s story of being framed by Kumar seemed any more plausible, he replied, “Ye Ravinder idhar itne chhote-chhote bacchon ke saath kya-kya kar chukka hai”—This Ravinder has been doing terrible things to kids. He continued, “Look at his past history; why would Sunny do something like that?”

On 6 August, I visited the family of the seven-year-old boy in Jain Nagar, where paved roads end and people know addresses by the landlords’ names. His extended family, consisting of four adults and children each, lived in a single-storey, one-room house amid similar structures, wild bushes and empty lots.

The entrance to a derelict building in Jain Nagar where the body of a six-year-old girl was found on 14 July 2015. ISHAN MARVEL FOR THE CARAVAN

The mother of the child recounted the events of the night of 2 June 2014, when her son was abducted. “We were all sleeping here in the courtyard. I woke up around 3 am and noticed my son was missing. We and our neighbours looked everywhere. Even that barber, Dharmender and the other boy [the juvenile] came offering help. In fact, earlier that night I saw both of them around this area.”

A missing persons report was filed at Begumpur police station, and at around 11 pm on 3 June 2014, the police arrived with Kumar and found the boy hardly fifty yards from his house inside the septic tank—now overrun by bushes—behind the abandoned brick-house where he was allegedly abused. The boy was then admitted to the Sanjay Gandhi hospital in  Mangolpuri for two days. “That was the first time we saw Ravinder [Kumar],” the mother told me, before adding that she spotted him in the vicinity again after he was released on bail this May.

Earlier this year, on the morning of 14 July, a six-year-old girl was reported missing at Begumpur police station. The brother of the boy from earlier led me through waterlogged mud paths for about half a kilometre to the girl’s house—an isolated two-room building located near open fields and inhabited by another extended family.

“They nabbed her [at] about 6.30 [or] 7 in the morning, when she had gone to the fields for latrine, like always,” her father told me. “We finally found her body around 11 [am]. She was naked. The police took the body [at] around 3 [or] 4 in the afternoon. There’s been no medical or post-mortem report so far,” he continued, before taking me to a derelict three-storey building less than fifty yards away. “While we were searching for our daughter, we did see Ravinder [Kumar] come out of this building in the morning. But of course, we didn’t know him then. It’s an abandoned house; people go there to drink and to do drugs and things like that. Later, when he was arrested, I recognised him,” the girl’s father added. Inside, on the ground floor, he showed me the spot at which the body was found. He also told me that the girl had been abused in a room on the top floor, where he showed me what he claimed were the victim’s footprints and handprints, along with discarded pairs of gloves left by the investigation team.

It was here that the police found Sunny’s documents, the ones they believe Kumar planted in order to try and implicate him in the crime. Sunny was deemed to have an alibi for the night of the crime, “Us shaam Sunny ko in logonne bahut maara, fir woh raat ko wahin-kahin chhup kar so gaya—That evening, Kumar and his accomplices beat Sunny profusely. He then went and hid and slept somewhere there,” Dahiya told me. Kumar was arrested on 16 July, two days after the crime was committed.

At around 1pm on 6 August, I visited the crime branch in Prashant Vihar to meet inspector Hariwansh Singh, the investigating officer for a First Information Report [FIR] registered at Kanjhawala police station, for the rape and murder of a three-year-old girl in Kanjhawala, in 2011. Though Singh admitted that there were barely any witnesses and evidence, he told me that, “The place of occurrence [of the crime] matched with Ravinder’s confession. We are waiting for the DNA report from forensic science laboratory (FSL) Rohini to see if the semen samples found earlier matched with Ravinder’s.”

An hour after my visit to the crime branch, I reached DCP Vikramjit Singh’s office at Pushpanjali Enclave. He told me that a judicial confession from Kumar was yet to be extracted and that the police may go for “DNA profiling and psychological mapping if the evidence proves insufficient.” I asked him why Kumar had not been apprehended for seven years. “He never planned his crimes. He simply picked up children who were easily accessible outdoors without adult supervision, like from construction sites. Sometimes, there was no evidence, no eyewitness, and no report,” Singh replied. “The bodies of the children were found and there was an inquest proceeding, that’s all.”

On the afternoon of 13 August, I met Kumar’s father Brahmanand at their single-room house in Utsav Vihar, in the middle of sprawling fields, about a kilometre from the house of the six-year-old girl. He told me that before being forced to move in July because of the sudden notoriety, the family had been living in the surrounding areas of Jain Nagar and Sukhbir Nagar for more than two decades, “I don’t know what or whose fear he is under, but my son is innocent. That night [13-14 July] he was sleeping here in the courtyard with the rest of us,” he began. “The confessions on TV? Torture! Once the cops start hitting you with their sticks, you’ll confess to anything, no? Plus, he’s shook up in the head with all those electric shocks—what do you expect?” Brahmanand alleged that apart from being beaten, Kumar was additionally tortured into confessing and was even being charged for murders that had already been solved and for which people were serving time. “The Begumpur police took good care of him,” Brahmanand said. Sunil, another of his four sons, is currently in jail for assaulting Sunny and stealing his belongings with Kumar on the evening of 13 July.

Further muddling the narrative between Kumar and Sunny is the accusation made by Brahmanand that on 13 July, Sunny came to his house and raped his wife. “The Begumpur police refused to believe us and file our report. Later that evening, my two sons decided to take revenge. Sunny got wounded and ran away, leaving his motorcycle and phone behind,” he said. He tried to explain Kumar’s involvement in the crime by alleging that Sunny’s family had bribed the police to implicate Kumar in the murder of the six-year-old girl.

Across the fields in Sukhbir Nagar, I found my way to Sunny’s house. He was out at work, but his parents refuted the rape allegation. “The boys [Ravinder and Sunny] had a fight, and later Ravinder’s father came and demanded [Rs] 2 lakh, saying he’ll file a false rape case otherwise,” his mother claimed, while laying some hay for buffaloes in the courtyard.

The Kanjhawala police station has the case on file, however the investigating officer, Sub-Inspector Somna (no last name given) explained that although the medico-legal case (MLC) report had confirmed sexual assault, it couldn’t be matched to Sunny yet. Her explanation was that Kumar’s mother “is married, so it is difficult to prove rape, but we are waiting for further reports.” Later, DCP Singh dismissed the allegation saying, “It was consensual, and Ravinder saw them [his mother and Sunny] in the act.” He cited this as the reason for the fight between Kumar and Sunny, concluding, “The mother had no option but to file a false case, so there has been no arrest.”

On 19 August, I spoke with Shrivastav at the Rohini district court. After reading the news reports, Shrivastav decided to take up Kumar’s case pro bono on 5 August, because he felt things were amiss. Shrivastav told me that the legal strategy was to plead innocent: “The confessions were all extracted through torture. Ravinder did fight with Sunny, but the rest is fabricated. As of now, there isn’t a single piece of evidence against my client that could be admissible under the Evidence Act.” He added, “Eight witnesses have flopped in the June 2014 case [of the six-year-old girl],” that is, their statements had no legal value.” Shrivastav added that the judges had refused further police custody outside the national capital region of Delhi and asked that the investigation only be limited to cases within Delhi.

Dahiya informed me that Kumar refused the Test Identification Parade (TIP)—a process in which the accused is brought before either the witnesses or the victims, or both, for identification. I asked Shrivastav why this was so, and he replied that since Kumar’s arrest, the police had broadcast his crimes and picture everywhere rendering the process moot.

On 19 August, I spoke to Dharmender, who had been summoned to the Rohini district court regarding his role in the abduction of the seven-year-old boy in 2014. “I first met Ravinder in May 2014, a month before the crime. That night [3 June] the three of us drank together.” He admitted that the three of them broke into a house in Jain Nagar and stole whatever they could lay their hands on. “After that, Ravinder left without saying anything—he didn’t even have a phone—while the two of us slept at my shop. I remember there was no electricity that night, it was dark everywhere,” Dharmender added. The two of them were woken up by cries for the missing boy and even helped search for him, “In fact, I was the one who called [the] beat officer Ashok. But the police arrested and tortured us, so we finally gave Ravinder’s name. He was brought and kept in a separate room. Later, the police told us that he had confessed to attacking the boy.”

The border between Jain Nagar and Sukhbir Nagar, where two of the bodies were found. ISHAN MARVEL FOR THE CARAVAN

At around 2:30 pm, Kumar was presented at court number 113 before the metropolitan magistrate for the north-west district, regarding the theft of Sunny’s motorcycle. Kumar’s head was wrapped in a pink dupatta, leaving only his eyes visible. He stood between Shrivastav and a constable, who held on to his left hand. The judge announced that the police had marked 15 ongoing cases against the accused, to which Shrivastav responded, “They [the police] are trying to pin all their pending cases on my client.”

Later that day, Kumar was eventually presented before the additional sessions judge, Vinod Yadav, at court number 307, regarding the June 2014 case. Here, I was finally able to talk to him. Kumar insisted that he had been implicated by Sunny, and that he had committed no crime apart from getting into fights. He claimed that the confessions were extracted under pressure, and that he had been threatened with additional police custody and torture before being presented to the media. Moreover, he added, on the night of 3 June, he had been asleep at home after returning from work at an export business in Karol Bagh. “Main bekasoor hoon—I am innocent!” he pleaded, before being taken away.

I met DCP Singh in his office again on 20 August. He confirmed that the DNA results from the FSL, Rohini were still pending, and that the police were adding more details from older cases. Regarding the claims made by Kumar’s father that Kumar was being charged in some cases that had already been closed and for which people were serving jail-time—such as, in Bahadurgarh, Jhajjar (Haryana) and Hathras (Uttar Pradesh)—Singh declined to comment. On 25 September,  Dahiya told me that the DNA results from the July 2015 case had come back and that they confirmed Kumar’s guilt. He refused to elaborate further.

Additional DCP for the outer district, Shweta Chauhan is in-charge of a “high-level team” investigating Kumar’s case. Chauhan refused to go into details of the cases against him. Regarding the Hathras case, she only admitted that, “He [Kumar] has confessed to us, and we have sent the details.” She stated that the onus was on the Hathras police to reopen the case and investigate it. Earlier, however, inspector Dahiya had been more emphatic, “Hathras police is wrong. They haven’t done proper interrogation and investigation, just like [the] last time here [Begumpur, June 2014].”

On 3 October, I spoke to Ajai Shankar Rai, additional superintendent of police of Hathras over the phone. He told me that the Delhi Police had never contacted them regarding the case, officially or otherwise. In fact, he said, he had given a similar statement to the press about three months ago. Rai concluded that as far as Hathras police are concerned, the case is closed: there was sufficient scientific evidence against the victim's father, and so he was arrested in 2013.

When I asked Chauhan about unreported cases, she simply replied, “What can we do if the crimes were not reported? Ravinder’s confessions matched the details we found, so it’s a matter of perspective.”