Police have overlooked evidence, ignored court orders and due legal procedures, and barred victims' families from seeking justice -- all allegedly to cover up how three boys were actually killed in the capital's Mirpur on February 22 last year.
Even a year after the killings, they have not mentioned the victims' names in the legal papers.
The documents submitted to court by police -- the first information report in particular -- still portray the victims as unidentified boys.
Soon after the incident, this paper was able to know the identities of the three. They were Sumon, 14, Robin, 15, and Jewel, 15 -- all neighbours, living at Adarshanagar slum in Kalshi area of Mirpur.
The Mirpur police do not even know who is currently investigating the case. Sub-inspector Syed Asaduzzaman, the original investigation officer, was transferred to Savar Police Station around three months after he was assigned to probe the case.
Hours after the incident, police claimed the three were killed in a mob beating at Kazipara in Mirpur.
However, in the first information report filed on February 23, they said the boys were beaten and shot by a mob of 100/150 people after they were caught while preparing to carry out an arson attack.
Victims' families say the way police have been dealing with the probe makes them suspect that a bid is afoot to cover up how and why their boys were killed and who were involved.
“We are left with no choice but holding police in suspicion for the murders,” Jyotsna Rani Das, mother of Sumon, told The Daily Star yesterday.
Last year, the BNP and its allies had launched a violent movement to dislodge the government. The movement lasted about three months since January 5, the first anniversary of the 10th parliamentary elections that the opposition combine had boycotted.
The government and the police were struggling to contain the violence that saw numerous public transports being firebombed by arsonists and at least 75 deaths already.
Around 7:00pm on February 22, locals caught the three boys on suspicion that they were preparing to firebomb a public transport on Rokeya Sarani opposite Monipur High School in Shewrapara of Mirpur, according to witnesses.
The trio were then taken to the office of a local cable TV operator, Mahbubur Rahman who is president of the pro-government Awami Jubo League's Ward-14 unit in Dhaka (North). About two hours later, the three boys were handed over to a police team, added the witnesses.
Mahbubur confirmed this version to The Daily Star.
Police, however, claimed to the media immediately after the incident that they had found the three critically injured in a mob beating at Kazipara, and rushed them to Dhaka Medical College Hospital. The boys were declared dead in the early hours of February 23.
QUESTIONS OVER PROBE
Sub-inspector Masud Parvez of Mirpur Police Station on February 23 filed a case, stating that three "unidentified" arsonists were beaten and shot to death by a mob.
The bodies bore at least 56 bullet wounds, said sources in the DMC morgue.
Interestingly, police never sought the autopsy reports from the morgue authorities, a must for dealing with such cases.
Residents of Baishbari, located some 400 yards from the cable operator office, said they had seen police carrying away the three bullet-riddled bodies from an alleyway there around 10:00pm.
A middle-aged woman, who lives in a building beside the alley, said there was no mob there.
"There was no crowd. Rather, multiple gunshots rocked the area in two phases," said the woman, whose identity is being withheld for security concerns.
The building owner, also not being named, echoes the woman's words.
At least a dozen other locals described the incident along this line.
Asked why the victims were not named in the case, SI Masud said, "Because we did not find the families [of the victims] after the murders."
He, however, said he knew that two of the bodies were handed over to their families on February 24.
It was SI Masud who did the bodies' inquests in the early hours of February 23 at the hospital, and prepared the list of items seized from the spot of the incident.
The seizure list did not include the bloodstained ropes believed to have been used in tying up the victims' hands, the cartridges or the bullets that were found by The Daily Star correspondents on the spot the morning after the incident.
Masud claimed he failed to notice all the evidences and thought the investigation officer would include those later.
However, the then IO, SI Syed Asaduzzaman, had said, “I thought the seizure list included all the evidences.”
COURT ORDERS IGNORED
Since the case was filed, a Dhaka court at least on two occasions had directed the police to inform it about progress of the investigation.
But the cops disregarded the orders on both occasions.
So far all that police have submitted to the court are a one-page FIR and the inquest reports.
WHO IS THE IO?
These correspondents contacted eight officials of Mirpur Police Station, including Officer-in-Charge Bhuiyan Mahbub Hasan, over the past few months to know who the investigating officer (IO) of the case was.
But none could say anything with certainty.
At one stage, OC Mahbub said the investigation was transferred to the detective branch of police.
However, court documents, which usually contain the notice of any such transfer, do not bear out his claim.
Police documents submitted to the court still show SI Syed Asaduzzaman as the IO.
The Mirpur OC could not be reached on his phone for further comments despite several attempts since Friday.
NONCOOPERATION TO VICTIM FAMILIES
Ever since the murders, families of Sumon and Robin visited Mirpur Police Station at least three times to see if "the culprits had been identified".
But they were not even given a copy of the statement of the case police had filed over the murders.
"Police said they would be in trouble if we got the case statement. They treated us as if we were not human beings," said Sumon's mother Jyotsna.
She then filed a separate case with a Dhaka court on December 28 last year.
“I want justice. I will spare no one. Now that I have lost my son, I have nothing more to lose,” Jyotsna said.
Sumon's father Johny Rabi Das finds the police reaction regarding the murders “suspicious”.
“It all affirmed the widespread suspicion and my belief that cops were involved in the murders,” said Johny.
Another victim, Robin, was an orphan. His uncle Sujon would not talk about the matter for fear of reprisals.
The boys were friends and known for attending political programmes for money.