The Special Investigation Team (SIT) currently investigating the murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh on Saturday released three sketches of two persons suspected to be her killers.
“Three sketches of two suspects have been made on the basis of their description by eyewitness accounts and the CCTV footage obtained. Two sketches of one suspect were made by two sketch-makers as per eyewitness accounts,” SIT head and Inspector General of Police (IGP) B.K. Singh told reporters here.
Lankesh, 55, editor of Kannada weekly tabloid “Gauri Lankesh Patrike” was shot dead outside her house in the city’s southwest suburb on the night of 5 September as she tried to open the gate of her house. Her murder had caused huge international outrage. Journalists across India had staged angry protests against yet another killing of a journalist.
Police had earlier said that five members of militant Hindutva outfit, Sanatan Sanstha, were behind Lankesh’s murder.
“We have got video clips of a motorcycle rider who is suspected to be involved in the commission of the offence,” Singh was quoted by news agency IANS.
Giving an account of the investigation conducted over the last one month, Singh said the suspects, aged between 25-35 years, were residing in the city for at least one week before they committed the crime.
“It is suspected that these persons stayed in the area near the residence of Gauri Lankesh,” he said.
They carried out a “recce” around Lankesh’s home prior to committing the crime, he said.
The SIT has interrogated more than 200-250 people as part of the investigation so far, added Singh.
“We request the public to help us find their hideouts in the city,” he added.
He also asserted that the 150-member SIT is carrying out the investigation “without any bias and is hunting for the suspects based on the sketches”.
“We are investigating only on the basis of evidence, and are not looking at any particular institution behind these suspects,” Singh asserted.
Asked if the SIT could find any link between Lankesh’s murder to the killings of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar (shot dead in 2013), and scholar M.M. Kalburgi (shot dead in 2015), he said, “Till date, we could not find any such links.”
He said “there is a personal angle, a professional angle, and an activist angle” that they are probing in the murder, adding, “So far, we have ruled out the professional angle, which has to do with her journalism (meaning that no professional rivalry led to her murder).”
The team is investigating “all the angles with a free mind”, he said.
“We have started our investigation based on the CCTV footage that was obtained from outside Gauri Lankesh’s residence. We have gone through at least 75 terabytes (TB) of video footage so far from various surveillance cameras around the locality.”.
Along with sketches of the suspects, the SIT has also released to the public two video clips captured through CCTVs around the locality of Lankesh’s residence showing a motor cycle rider wearing a helmet.
Those sharing any information that could lead to the killers shall be rewarded as announced by the state government, he said.
In September, Home Minister of Karnataka Ramalinga Reddy had announced that the state government had decided to reward Rs 10 lakh to anyone providing information and clues to Lankesh’s killers.
“It is due to the public help that we have reached this far in the probe and could release the sketches of the suspects,” Singh added.
“Public is requested to share any information they may have related to the suspects or the motor cycle used by them on the number 9480800202 and on email email@example.com,” Singh said.
A day after the murder, the state government had formed a SIT under the state’s Crime Investigation Department (CID) to probe the murder with inter-state ramifications as the suspects could be from within Karnataka or other states.
The SIT has IGP Singh as its head and Deputy Commissioner of Police (West) M.N. Anucheth as the main Investigation Officer (IO).