A seven-year-old girl was allegedly raped by a neighbour and hanged from a tree in Rajnagar village of Nandakumar in East Midnapore in India on Wednesday night.
A mob hunted down the suspect -- a tantrik (spiritual healer) -- and beat him to death. Two of his aides are critically injured, reports Times of India.
The girl, a class III student, was last seen alive around 5:00pm on Wednesday when she went out to buy some food for herself after returning from school, the newspaper reports.
When she did not return home, her father alerted neighbours and they began looking for her. The search party feared the girl had accidentally fallen into a pond.
Just after midnight, a village youth came out of his house to relieve himself. As he flashed his torch around, the light caught a little girl hanging from the branch of a roadside tree.
The youth screamed in terror, alerting neighbours. Within minutes the whole locality was awake. She was identified as the missing girl.
Villagers believed she was raped and murdered. As anger swept through the village, a mob set out seeking instant justice.
They immediately suspected tantrik Ratan Das says the father's complaint. His house is only yards away from the crime scene.
The villagers' suspicion was heightened when they saw Ratan, his face covered with a towel (gamcha), trying to flee in the pre-dawn darkness with his two associates. A mob chased them and started beating them. Another group set his house on fire.
By the time police arrived, Ratan and his aides were unconscious. The tantrik was declared dead at Tamluk Hospital. Doctors are trying to save his aides.
East Midnapore SP Sukesh Jain said though the victim was missing since 5:00pm on Wednesday, neither her family nor villagers had informed police.
"We learnt of the incident in the early hours of Thursday and reached the village soon. We have begun an investigation on the basis of a complaint lodged by the girl's father and are probing the possibility of involvement of the three villagers suspected. Had we not reached on time, all three would have been lynched. Ratan's associates are in custody and will be interrogated when discharged," he said.