Justice for Tonu: All are hoping against hope
Tonu is dead!
That's the only thing investigators can say for sure after more than a month since the body of the 19-year-old was found in Comilla Cantonment area.
They don't know the cause of her death, let alone identity of the suspects or their motive.
Yaar Hossain, who first spotted the body of her college-going daughter in a bush on the night of March 20, filed a murder case, but the police inquest and first autopsy missed primary evidence of murder.
The reports didn't cite any sign of rape either.
Yaar Hossain noticed the back of Tonu's head was smashed and there were injuries in her nose. But the inquest saw no sign of injury or assault on any part of her body.
While the first autopsy report says, “No sign of forceful intercourse before death was found. Victim was not pregnant. No definite opinion as to the death could be given.”
Sharmin Sultan, a lecturer at Comilla Medical College, conducted the first autopsy on March 21. Later, a Comilla court ordered exhumation of the body for a second autopsy.
Police on March 30 exhumed the body, with various law enforcement agencies struggling to identify a single suspect in her murder.
Talking to the BBC Bangla later that day, the police superintendent of Comilla said Tonu might have been raped before being killed.
“Considering the circumstantial evidence and symptoms found on the body, it seems Tonu was raped.”
A three-member board led by Kamoda Prosad Saha, head of forensic medicine department at Comilla Medical College, conducted the second autopsy later on March 30. Its report is yet to be prepared.
Experts think that no evidence of rape would now be found even if the crime had been committed.
"It is almost impossible to detect rape signs on a decomposed body and after 10 days of the burial," said a forensic doctor, preferring anonymity. "Even if there was rape evidence, it was damaged during the first autopsy and when the body was given a bath for the first burial."
He, however, said the cause of death can be determined by examining even a decomposed body and suggested that it should have been done at a medical college with more experts and better facilities.
The killing of Sohagi Jahan Tonu, a student of Comilla Victoria Collage and a member of the college theatre, sparked widespread protests across the country.
So far, the investigators recorded statements of over 50 people, including parents of Tonu and her relatives and friends in phases.
No arrest has been made; nothing is known about the motive.
One of the main reasons behind no visible progress in the investigation could be that it was mishandled from the beginning.
The Rapid Action Battalion took away earth and grass from the crime scene, though it was never officially assigned to probe the murder. The case has been transferred to the CID from the Detective Branch of Comilla police.
“A spot visit might give an impression that some evidence might have been tampered with,” said National Human Rights Commission Chairman Dr Mizanur Rahman on March 31.
The spot, where Tonu's body had been found, looked unusually clean, he told journalists after visiting the spot.
Contacted by The Daily Star, Col Ziaul Ahsan, additional director general (operations) of Rapid Action Battalion, confirmed that the elite force dug up the spot for collecting soil.
“There is nothing wrong in collecting evidence from a place where a crime has taken place and police have not yet cordoned off the area,” said Ziaul Ahsan.
Besides, according to court records, some other agencies collected some pieces of evidence that were later submitted to the investigators.
The evidence, which include vaginal swab, shreds of Tonu's clothes, four of her teeth and a pair of male shoes, was sent to the CID's forensic lab in the capital's Malibagh late last month. The report is yet to be made public.
Talking about the inquest report, Tonu's father Yaar Hossain said a sub-inspector prepared it at will.
On the fateful night, upon finding his daughter around 10:30pm, he took her to the Combined Military Hospital in Comilla with the help of some others. Tonu went missing after giving tuition at two cantonment houses in the evening.
According to the death certificate issued by the CMH, she was brought in dead.
Around 2:00am on March 21, Saiful Islam of Cantonment Police Outpost in Comilla prepared the inquest report at the emergency unit of the CMH before sending the body to Comilla Medical College morgue for autopsy.
This newspaper obtained a copy of the inquest report, which bears signatures of six witnesses, including the victim's father, mother Anwara Begum and brother Anwar Hossain.
Tonu's father also alleged that SI Saiful took their signatures before writing anything on that paper.
Experts believe conducting a fresh autopsy in the same medical college might not yield a different result. It should have been done at Dhaka Medical College (DMC), which has better facilities and experts.
There are instances where a second autopsy done at the DMC found murder evidence after the first autopsy elsewhere had failed to do so.
In 2011, 15-year-old rape victim Hena was whipped to death following village arbitration in Noria upazila of Shariatpur. She was “punished” for “extra-marital affairs” with a youth, who was in fact the rapist.
Like the Tonu murder case, police inquest and first autopsy in Shariatpur found no injury marks on her body. People of the area outright rejected the findings.
About 26 days after Hena's burial, forensic doctors at Dhaka Medical College in the second autopsy found that the body bore numerous marks of torture, establishing the gruesome murder.
Talking to The Daily Star, the forensic doctor who conducted Hena's second autopsy said lack of expertise of the then Shariatpur doctors might be one of the reasons for their failure.
“The same thing might have happened in the case of Tonu,” he said.
Another forensic doctor said, "The exhumed body of Tonu should have been sent to Dhaka Medical College for the second autopsy.”
Tonu's father Yaar Hossain told The Daily Star a couple of days ago, "We find no hope that doctors will determine the cause of Tonu's death in the second autopsy as it was their colleague who failed to do it in the first one."
He said, "Amar Ma [my daughter] was dumped in a bush after being killed brutally. The back of her head was smashed and there was injury in her nose. How come they could not find the cause of her death?"
Despondent, Tonu's mother Anwara asked, "So, is this how days will go by and killers will remain untraced? How long will it take?”