NEW DELHI: The day after school bus conductor Ashok Kumar was arrested by Gurgaon police for the murder of 7-year-old Ryan International School student Pradhyumn Thakur, TOI had asked in a headline, “Have cops got the right man? Pradhyumn’s father doesn’t think so.”
Barun Thakur may have been right.
The probe into the most sensational murder case in recent times turned on its head on Wednesday when the CBI identified a 16-year-old Class 11 student of the same school — the Ryan campus in Gurgaon’s Bhondsi — as the prime suspect. The motive? The boy, according to the agency, wanted to defer an exam that day and postpone a parent-teacher meeting (PTM) and had allegedly been exploring ways of doing it.
A senior CBI officer said the accused student (name withheld) “planned the murder to simply postpone the exam, which was going on at the time, and the scheduled PTM” as he believed something big would force the authorities to shut the school”.
The central agency virtually gave a clean chit to Kumar, who Gurgaon police had claimed committed the murder while trying to sexually assault the child. The CBI said it had not found anything against Kumar or any sign of a sexual assault attempt on Pradhyumn, as cops had claimed.
Pradhyumn, a Class 2 student, was found with his throat slit just outside the groundfloor washroom of the school on September 8 morning, minutes after his father had walked him and his elder sister Vidhi (who is in the fifth standard) to the campus. Pradhyumn had gone to his classroom after saying bye to Vidhi, and then to the washroom at the other end of the floor.
The CBI officer said the Class 11 student “lured Pradhyumn inside on the pretext of discussing something important, and within seconds, slit his throat”. “Somebody was going to die that day. He came prepared that he was going to use the knife he was carrying on someone. Pradhyumn just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time,” the officer added.
“I went blank and just did it,” is what the boy reportedly told CBI sleuths during questioning. The same knife, which CBI described as the “murder weapon”, was shown by Gurgaon police as used by Ashok Kumar, the central agency said. The agency said it is verifying from the accused’s classmates, friends and teachers whether he carried a knife two days before the murder as well and feared teachers may complain to his parents in the next PTM. The knife was recovered by Gurgaon police from a commode in the toilet.
CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal said the accused was “weak in studies”, hence wanted the ongoing exams and PTM postponed. The CBI said its investigators zeroed in on the Class 11 student as the “prime suspect” after repeated inspection of the crime spot, scrutiny of CCTV footage, call records and questioning several people, including teachers, other students and staff.
Sources told TOI that half-yearly exams for 11th standard were on during that time. The accused took the first exam on September 6 and was supposed to sit for another on September 8, the day of the murder.
During the probe, investigators found the accused student’s conduct “suspicious” and learnt from other students he had bragged in front of some of his classmates he would get the exam postponed so they don’t need to study, said a CBI officer. This aspect is being further examined.
Giving details of the sequence of events, the officer said, “On September 8 morning, the accused juvenile was carrying the knife and waited in the gallery near the toilet for his prey.” He didn’t know Pradhyumn well and “randomly” targeted him, the boy is believed to have told CBI sleuths.
Sources said the accused was quite popular in school as he used to play the piano but he didn’t know Pradhyumn. “The accused also used to often bunk classes and was found in music room. His interest was in music, not so much in his studies,” said an officer. “His popularity could be the reason that Pradhyumn easily went inside the washroom with him.”
As Pradhyumn was lured in, the accused slit his throat within a few seconds. After that, he informed the school gardener about the “injured boy”. As Ryan teachers and staff started to gather near the washroom, he slipped away and sat in his class where the exam was going on. “He was late by a few minutes for the exam,” said an officer.
Just as he had planned, the exam was called off. The school was evacuated and shut as police reached.
CBI sleuths identified the accused as one of those coming out of the toilet area through a 25-minute CCTV footage, which also suggests Kumar may have left the toilet before the accused student entered with Pradhyumn.