New Delhi: At first, the white plastic bag seemed to be bulging with just flesh and offal, perhaps the meat of an animal. But a closer inspection revealed that it contained a recognisable human torso, covered in a blood-soaked white vest with the words “Titanic 100 percent cotton” written on the cloth.
A year after this grisly discovery was made at an empty flooded plot, used as a garbage dump in the national capital’s Rohini district, the victim’s identity remains a mystery.
All that is known about him is that he had a black mole on the left side of his back and, going by his body hair, was 20-40 years old, the first information report (FIR) says. He has been tagged as an Unidentified Dead Body (UIDB), with his name, face, life, and the events leading up to his death still a big blank.
Similarly, around nine months ago, a body was found lying amidst shrubbery in East Delhi. The victim was a male, about 25 years old. Nothing else is known about him, except that he met a violent end. Initially, the police thought it was an accidental death. However, the autopsy report said “blunt force trauma”, likely inflicted intentionally, was the cause of death. This case, too, is nowhere close to be being solved.
Delhi Police data exclusively accessed by ThePrint shows that this year 465 murders were reported in Delhi until 30 November. In 14 of these cases, the identity of the victim is still not known. All of these 14 cases remain unsolved.
While data on the total number of unsolved murder cases or those pending investigation is not available, police officers told ThePrint that cases where the murder victims are unidentified form a major chunk of unsolved cases.
Sources in the Delhi Police added that the maximum number of such cases are reported from Rohini and East district. Most are never linked to any missing persons complaint.
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‘Crucial clues are found only after a body is identified’
According to the NCRB data for 2021, Delhi Police’s chargesheet rate in murder cases is recorded as 95.6 per cent, which means out of 459 murder cases registered, a chargesheet was filed in 438 cases, while the other 21 remained under investigation.
Senior officers said that investigating officers lodge a case under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) if circumstantial and prima facie evidence points to a violent death. This is even before the autopsy report is in. In other cases, a homicide case is lodged if the autopsy points at unnatural death due to wounds, injuries etc.
“A majority of murder cases remain unsolved when the body cannot be identified. This is because crucial clues are found only after the body is identified. In almost all these cases, no missing complaint is lodged,” a police source said.
However, there are exceptions to the rule.
Last month, the Delhi Police’s crime branch arrested a woman and her son for the murder of her husband. His decomposing body parts were found back in June, there were no clues to his identity, and no missing complaint had been lodged.
However, the police tracked the case down to a house in Delhi’s Pandav Nagar after conducting door-to-door questioning.
Tracing the untraceable
The Zonal Integrated Police Network (Zipnet) website lists thousands of unidentified bodies. All of them are not homicide victims — some are accident victims while others died naturally.
Data shows that from 2018 to 2022, an average of eight bodies were found in the national capital daily. Of these, a mere 200-400 bodies are identified. The maximum number of UIDBs (not homicides) are found in areas under the railways’ jurisdiction, and in North and Central Delhi. This, police sources said, is because Delhi has a high number of migrants coming in, many without an ID or any other footprint.
For the investigating team, police said, victim identification in UIDB homicide cases is a major breakthrough as it leads to vital clues on suspects, and motive.
The initial steps after an unidentified body is found is to cordon off the area, call the forensics team, send the body for postmortem and click photographs, noting down marks of identification such as birthmarks, cuts, or tattoos.
“An alarm is sent across police stations for missing person’s complaints. If it is just body parts, they are preserved in the mortuary. In other cases, the DNA is preserved and the last rites are performed after 72 hours; the period can be extended in rare cases,” another police source said. Further, the height, weight, skin tone, and features are noted down and these details are uploaded on Zipnet. CCTV footage, possible witnesses, nearby hospital records are also traced.
In cases of suspected suicide, an inquest proceeding is initiated, the process of which includes ascertaining the cause of death. There is no timeline of when the investigation must be concluded in such cases. Once suicide is established, a report is filed with the identity listed as untraceable.
For murder cases, the investigation takes longer and an “untraceable report” is filed only after seven-eight years but can be reopened in case of evidence being discovered later.
(Edited by Smriti Sinha)
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