A chilling tale of a highway robbery
The woman gang-raped in a moving bus early Wednesday said she had been violated six times.
Testifying before a court in Tangail yesterday afternoon, she also said the robbers were angry with her because she did not let one of them sit beside her before the robbery began and because she resisted when they blindfolded her and tied her hands.
She boarded the bus around 8:00pm and the robbery started over five hours later.
She saw the bus driver and the two crew members being taken to the back of the bus at knife point.
The robbers tortured everyone, including the women, until the vehicle stopped several hours later, she said.
None of the passengers had any idea of where they were. They later learnt that they were in Madhupur.
Rehena Parveen, assistant professor of gynecology at Sheikh Hasina Medical College, who led a team of doctors that examined the woman, said there were signs that the woman had been raped and there were injury marks on different parts of her body.
Sarkar Mohammad Kaiser, superintendent of police in Tangail, yesterday gave reporters a harrowing account of how the robbery unfolded.
The bus heading for Dhaka from Kushtia stopped for about 30 minutes at a restaurant around 11:30pm on Tuesday in Sirajganj. Soon after it resumed the journey, 10-12 robbers in disguise of passengers got on the bus from different places. They took seats in the back.
Around 1:30am, when the bus was in Natiapara area of Tangail, the robbers asked the driver to stop the bus at knife point and then put him under the rear seat with his hands and legs tied, the SP told a press conference at his office.
One of the robbers then began driving the vehicle and took a left turn before Elenga and kept driving towards Mymensingh. Meanwhile, the robbers tore the window curtains and the passengers' clothes and used those to blindfold and tie everyone in the vehicle.
"Then they took the mobile phones, cash, jewellery and other valuables. Five or six of them raped a female passenger," said Kaiser.
Helal Miah, a guard in Raktibazar area of Madhupur, said he saw a bus slowing down on the highway and men jumping off of it around 3:00am.
The bus then went off the road and became stationary with its right wheels in the air after hitting an electric pole.
"Then I walked towards the bus and heard someone screaming 'robbers'. The robbers [men who jumped off the vehicle] started running away. I saw a white microbus and I think they got on it and fled. Then I went near the bus and screamed for the locals to come and help," he told reporters.
"A woman in torn clothes was among the passengers. The other women passengers' dupattas were given to her so that she could cover herself. The travellers said there was a robbery in the bus.
"But the passengers could not come out of the vehicle as the door was blocked. Many of them came out through the windows using a ladder brought from a nearby mosque."
SP Kaiser said detectives in Tangail caught one of the suspects named Raja Miah, 32. He drove the hijacked bus and was arrested at his home in Deola area of Tangail around 5:00am, he said.
The suspect, who is originally from Balla area of Kalihati, used to be a bus driver on Dhaka-Tangail route.
A court placed him on a five-day remand.
The SP said the arrestee had told police the names and addresses of the other suspects.
A case was filed with Madhupur Police Station under the penal code and Women and Children Repression (prevention) Act, he added.
Fruit trader Hekmat Ali who was in the bus filed the case. He said he was travelling to Dhaka with his wife, two children, and mother-in-law.
"One of the robbers slapped me hard on the ear. They took away Tk 22,000, two mobile phones, and my wife and mother-in-law's jewelries.
"I could hear that they were torturing a woman behind us, but there was nothing I could do about it. I also heard screams of another woman from the front, but I couldn't see anything in the dark," he said.
"Hearing everything from us, police asked us to file a case. I just wanted to be a witness of the case. But they asked me to be the complainant, so I agreed."
"The police put us on a BRTC bus at 9:00am [on Wednesday] to go home," Hekmat added.
Contacted, Solaiman Hossain, owner of the bus, said the driver and the two crew members have worked for him "for a long time".
Asked whether the robbers got on the bus from the highway, he said, "When a bus is on the road, the drivers, helpers, conductors control the bus," Solaiman said.
"I want the punishment of the culprits." Solaiman added.