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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hammer man strikes in delhi

NEW DELHI: Call him Delhi's Jack the Ripper or the Hammer Man. He rips but doesn't rape. Neither does he rob. He just kills unsuspecting women in the wee hours of the morning, tears their clothes and disappears into thin air.

A serial killer is on the prowl in the Baljeet Nagar area of West Delhi. Over the last two months he has attacked five women — allegedly with a hammer — leaving at least two dead and another fighting for her life in Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. His last victim, a former nurse called Sudarshana (45), was found dead in her room in Punjabi Basti on Thursday morning.

Police say that the possibility of a psychopath cannot be ruled out though they have registered cases in only two of the assaults.

"Sudarshana was declared brought dead at Deen Dayal Upadhyay hospital. A case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder has been registered at the Anand Parbat police station but the actual cause of death will be known only upon arrival of the autopsy report," said a senior police officer.

Sudarshana's next door neighbour, Pan Kumari, said, "On Thursday morning, we woke up to see that Sudarshana hadn't shut her doors. On stepping inside, we found her dead with only the face covered."

Sudarshana had survived a similar attack on the head a month ago. The police had then claimed that she had fallen off the cot although locals have a different story to tell. "He seems to have accomplished what he had unsuccessfully attempted one month back," Pan Devi said. Police however claimed that Sudarshana's brother had told them that she has been mentally unstable for 17 years.NEW DELHI: Fourteen-year-old Khushboo Gulati has stopped going to school as fear of the "hammerman", who has allegedly killed three women in her neighbourhood in the past two months, keeps her awake at night.

"Even if I go to school, I usually faint and face embarrassment when my parents are called to take me home," says the Class VIII student.

Her mother, Khushboo, like others in her colony at Baljeet Nagar, has lost sleep too ever since their neighbour, Sudarshana Devi, was attacked one and a half months ago. Till a fortnight after the attack, all neighbours kept vigil on the streets.

"Playing cards and gossiping over cups of tea kept fear at bay. But we discontinued this nocturnal vigil when the hammerman moved to other colonies," says Khushboo.

The second attack on Sudarshana on Thursday has left the neighbourhood shaken. And it has brought to light six similar cases of attack on women, three of them fatal, in the past two months.

The injured have been identified as Sheila Devi, Tara Devi and Lalita Devi, who is still in a critical condition at Ram Manohar Lohia hospital, while the deceased have been identified as Seema, Rajni and Sudarshana.

The early morning attacks also bear a resonance to similar assaults that were carried out last year. The victims then -- Renu and Sagina -- luckily survived, making Seema who was attacked in July, the first casualty.

Talking to Times City, Renu (22), whose courage saved her life last March, said, "Hammerman attacked me sometime in March last year when he crept into my room and switched off the lights, before placing a heavy hand over my face. I managed to break free and slash his wrist with a knife, that I always keep tucked under my pillow, and raised an alarm. He pulled me by the hair but fled when I continued to shout. Had he not switched off the lights, I’d have identified him."

Neighbours started keeping vigil on the streets and rooftops from 11 pm to 5 am, in the days that followed.

Sagina Khatun (25), who became the assalaint’s second victim, said, "No one believed me when I told people I’d been attacked, while sleeping in the open. But when I was struck again, this time in my room, I was taken seriously. The first time round I was hit by a blunt object, probably a hammer, on my chest. He hit my stomach the next time, damaging my intestines. This time, we approached the police but no one has been arrested."

Seema (25), who was attacked in July, when she stepped out to relieve herself around 4.30 am, was doomed to be the assalaint’s first casualty.

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