Three murders within 24 hours, a single weapon and a suspected psycho killer on the loose. The killings that gripped Cuttack with fear for the past week had all the ingredients of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
Kodanda Rout, a 55-year-old daily wage labourer was found dead near Talanda Canal in Ranihat on July 23. The incident came to light late that night when he was found in a pool of blood with his throat slit and head smashed. It could have been dismissed as just another gruesome murder in the state. However, within the next few hours, two more similar incidents were reported from SCB Medical College and the OMP market.
The two other bodies recovered too had similar injuries. It was almost a day later the police realised there could be a common link to these murders and a potential “psycho killer” could be on the loose.
All the three victims were around 40 years age and homeless daily wage labourers. The police suspected that the killer targeted the destitute and must have used the same weapon to bludgeon them to death, as the bodies had similar injuries. Their throats were slit purportedly with a sharp weapon and heads smashed with a heavy object, possibly a stone, prompting the police to call him a “stoneman”.
As gory details of the murders started doing the rounds on new channels and dailies, Cuttack residents feared the presence of a “psychopath” on the loose amid them.
However, on Monday (July 29), the police claimed to have made a breakthrough in the case with the arrest of a man, Narayan Sahu. While initial reports described the suspect as a mentally unsound person undergoing treatment in the psychiatry department of SCM medical college, the police have now said that may not be the case. “His name is Narayan Sahu and seems mentally stable. Further details will be revealed only once the interrogation is over,” said city DCP Akhileshwar Singh.
Unable to trace the culprit in the initial days, police Commissioner Satyajit Mohanty had said it was a particularly challenging case with few clues left behind by the murderer. Residents, however, are not very happy with the “excuses”.
“The police have failed to curb rising incidents of crimes in the city. Use of terms like psycho killer, stoneman or knifeman is a ploy to paint the cases as ‘complicated’,” Orissa Post quoted Pradeep Das, a lawyer from Cuttack.
Meanwhile, security and night patrolling has been stepped up across the city. The Bhubaneswar-Cuttack Police Commissionerate has also warned people of the risks of sleeping in the open and said measures have been taken to provide shelter to the homeless to sleep at night.
The three killings come at a time when the crime rate has increased by five per cent compared to the triennial average of crimes reported in 2015, 2016 and 2017 in the city according to the State’s Crime Records Bureau. The BJD-led state government is under heavy criticism by the Opposition for poor law and order in the state.