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Uttarakhand ex-minister’s son held for killing 19-yr-old

Uttarakhand ex-minister’s son held for killing 19-yr-old

THE SON of a former BJP minister in Uttarakhand was among three people arrested by the state’s police on Friday for the murder of a 19-year-old woman receptionist working at a resort in the Laxman Jhula area who was reported missing five days ago, senior officers said.

Pulkit Arya, the son of BJP leader Vinod Arya, has been named as the “main accused” in the case, the police said. Vinod Arya was a Minister of State in the previous BJP government headed by Trivendra Singh Rawat.

Pulkit has been booked on murder charges along with the two others, including the manager of Vanantra Resort which is owned by Pulkit, after they confessed to having pushed the woman into a canal following an altercation, the police said.

The body of the woman, who has been identified as Ankita Bhandari, is yet to be found, the police said. Bhandari hailed from Srikot village in Pauri Garhwal and was hired as a receptionist at the resort about a month ago, police sources said.

Asked about the motive behind the murder, and allegations that the woman had resisted attempts by the accused to push her into prostitution, Pauri Garhwal SSP Yaswant Singh told The Indian Express that the police are “looking into all possibilities”.

“There is a phone chat of the girl suggesting that the accused were bothering her. The accused said the girl left the resort around 8 pm with them to visit Rishikesh. There, they had momos and liquor, and later there was a heated exchange between Pulkit and Ankita near the canal. During the altercation, Ankita threw Pulkit’s phone into the canal. He then pushed her into the canal,” the SSP said.

Other than Pulkit, those arrested are resort manager Saurabh Bhaskar and another person identified as Ankit, the SSP said.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami described the incident as “extremely sad and unfortunate”, and said those responsible would be given “strict punishment”. “The police are doing their work and justice to the victim will be ensured,” he said.

The Chief Minister’s statement came after several women protesters surrounded the police vehicle carrying the accused and tried to attack them. Several local residents also attempted to vandalize the resort but were stopped by the police, officers said.

SSP Yaswant Singh said the “accused have confessed”. “They are saying they pushed the girl into the Chilla power house canal and that makes it a murder case. However, we are yet to recover the body. The FIR was initially registered under IPC section 365 (kidnapping). We have added IPC sections 302 (murder) and 201 (causing disappearance of evidence or giving false information).”

Police teams are searching the canal, senior officers said, adding that the woman had allegedly gone missing from the resort on September 18, and that a missing person report was registered.

Uttarakhand DGP Ashok Kumar said, “A girl identified as Ankita Bhandari, who used to work in Vanantra Resort in the Chilla locality of Laxman Jhula area, was missing for the last 5-6 days. The area falls under the Revenue Police area and a missing person’s report was filed there. Yesterday (Thursday), the case was transferred to the Laxman Jhula police and within 24 hours all three accused were arrested. Those arrested include main accused Pulkit Arya and two others.”

In a video statement, Additional SP (Kotdwar) Shekhar Suyal said the case was forwarded to the Laxman Jhula station by senior officials after new information came to light.

“We found that what was mentioned in the missing report was not what actually happened. The resort employees’ statements did not match, the circumstantial evidence told us differently… the room from where the girl allegedly went missing did not have any signs of someone having slept there,” the Additional SP said.

“We traced the phones, checked CCTV footage, and took statements. We confirmed that four persons left the resort on the said date and only three returned. Our next step was to arrest the three persons. Initially, they presented themselves as complainants and claimed that they, along with the girl, went (to Rishikesh on September 18) and returned safely. They claimed that the girl had dinner at night and slept alone in a room from where she went missing,” he said.

“However, during interrogation, they confessed that there was an altercation with the girl after which they pushed her into the canal,” he said.

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