‘Test No. 881 was a match‘, the forensic scientist exclaimed smilingly when Rehan Qureshi was identified as the ‘serial killer’ – responsible for the rape and murder of two young girls of ages two and nine in 2010. He is also accused of raping several minor girls in Mumbai across several years. The man-hunt by the Mumbai Police took eight years and forty lakh rupees in DNA tests alone. The investigation led by the Mumbai Police has cracked down one of the most panic-inducing cases in the city.
The case remained ‘unsolved’ for many years until CCTV, DNA tests and extremely dedicated detective work by the policemen helped in solving the case finally on 26 September 2018. During the course of the investigation, the police had to collect five hundred hours of CCTV footage, carry out the DNA analysis of 880 suspects, and spend countless hours looking for leads across the whole of the Mumbai Area. The epicentre of the crime was in Kurla in eastern Mumbai, where migrants from Rajasthan and other economically weaker minority groups reside. Rehan Qureshi lived in this area and escaped the DNA dragnet conducted in the area. He told the police during his investigation that he did not step out of the house, and thus avoided being caught since the “police had been questioning people mostly on the roads, or those with past criminal records, they could not go door to door.”
This case reminds us of the first case in the world in which DNA testing was used. The serial murderer Colin Pitchfork was caught for the rape and murder of two fifteen-year-old girls in England in 1984 in the same way. The Scotland Yard launched an operation collecting the DNA samples from the whole male population around the area, but could not catch the matching profile because Colin Pitchfork had escaped by asking his friend to proxy for him. It was only when this friend was overheard bragging in the town’s bar about how he has given his blood on behalf of Pitchfork that a woman reported this lead to the police. The police then picked Colin Pitchfork for investigation, and his DNA sample turned out to match with the crime sample. This case launched the use of DNA profiling in crime investigation across the globe.
DNA testing has once again shown its relevance for crime investigation in India. The Mumbai case could not have been solved without the clinching evidence through DNA and other investigative tools like the CCTV. The use of gait analysis by the detectives in the Mumbai Police was also instrumental in the cracking of the case. Although the detectives, in this case, use their own experience and expertise in identifying the particularities of Rehan Qureshi’s gait through a careful study of the CCTV footage, there is now technology available that can do the gait analysis for them by studying the video footage through computational analysis which will be very useful for investigative work in the future.
This case illuminates what can be achieved when careful, dedicated and motivated policing work is combined with modern crime-fighting technologies. The clinching evidence in the Rehan Qureshi’s case will be challenging to disprove for the defence in the court of law, thereby ensuring that he will be punished for his crimes. The Mumbai Police deserves all due appreciation for this achievement.