SRINAGAR - Last month, when a nomad family from Kathua district, 80 kilometres away from Jammu, filed a missing report for their 8 year old daughter among those appointed to trace her was a young Special Police Officer (SPO) called Deepak Khujaria.
A week later, police found her body- she had been brutally raped and murdered. Now, the police say, it was the same officer who carried out the crime.
Khujaria, a 28-year-old SPO posted at Police Station Heera Nagar, has been arrested by a Special Investigation Team of the Crime Branch for the incident.
The little girl was kidnapped when she was herding horses at Rasana village on January 10. Her disfigured body was found on January 17.
The police said Khujaria, along with an underage boy, raped and murdered the 8-year-old after holding her captive for a week.
"We have clinching evidence about his (Deepak Khajuria's) involvement. There was motive and we have evidence as well," said Alok Puri, the Additional Director General of Police, Crime Branch Jammu and Kashmir.
The police say the accused has confessed to his crime after he was confronted with evidence. The motive behind the crime was to spark fear among the nomad community.
Khujaria was part of a police team that had searched the area after the nomad family filed a missing report at police station at Heera Nagar. When members of the nomad community held a sit-in protest demanding justice on January 21, the girl's family said, it was Khujaria who started hitting them with batons. Several people were injured in the police action.
"He was also part of the search party but he was not investigating the case. Now we know what was the motive," said Mr Puri. The investigation has revealed that the kidnapping, rape and murder of young girl were well-planned and the girl had been targeted in advance, he said.
Nomads who have been fighting for justice for the girl say that from the first day, they knew who was behind the crime.
"On the funeral day of the girl, when we were lathicharged and I was arrested, this man hounded nomads and beat them up. Since, Day One (Jan 17), we have been demanding his arrest," said Talib Hussain, a nomad activist.
But after allegations of a botched up investigation against the Kathua Police, the case was handed to over to the Crime Branch. Sources say Deepak had threatened his underage accomplice with the murder of his parents if he revealed his name. Mr Puri said the involvement of more people cannot be ruled out.
"At this juncture, I can't rule out involvement of someone else," he said.