DNA from toothbrush ties Gauri Lankesh shooter to hideout

Johnson T A
File Photo of Kannada journalist, Gauri Lankesh who was shot dead at her house in Bengaluru on Tuesday evening. Express archive photo. 06.09.2017.

A DNA match from a toothbrush left behind at a hideout by Parashuram Waghmore (26), accused of shooting journalist Gauri Lankesh at her home on September 5, 2017, is among the key pieces of evidence in the Karnataka police SIT chargesheet filed in the case.

The DNA profile of Waghmore is "identical and matching with the DNA profile result of epithelial cells detected on toothbrush sent in item No. 6 of DNA 376/2018" states a November 16, 2018, report from the DNA section of the Karnataka Forensic Science Laboratory, which is part of the 9,235-page chargesheet filed against 18 people.

Waghmore, a former activist of the Sri Rama Sena, who was recruited and trained in using guns by an extreme right-wing group linked to the Sanatan Sanstha, has been identified by the SIT as the man who shot Lankesh.

The toothbrush with Wagmore's DNA was among material dumped following the murder by a suspect - a building contractor H L Suresh, whose house was used as a hideout for planning and executing the murder.

Amol Kale, alleged mastermind of the murder of Gauri Lankesh, in custody. (File)

The SIT recovered a bag containing toothbrushes, clothes and other material like fake vehicle number plates in August 2018 following the arrest of Suresh - an activist of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) - who was allegedly tasked with disposing material left behind at the hideout by the others involved in the killing. He was also allegedly asked to hide the guns used in the murder until it was retrieved by one of the killers.

The SIT has also matched DNA strands from hair found on a blanket at the hideout with the DNA profile of the alleged mastermind of the murder Amol Kale (39), a former Pune convenor of the HJS.

The SIT has also placed in court a report from the Gujarat Directorate of Forensic Sciences comparing video footage of the murder, captured on a CCTV camera at her house, with a recreation of the shooting that was conducted after Waghmore's arrest in June 2018.

The gait analysis report suggests that Waghmore's profile and mannerisms closely match that of the person seen gunning down Lankesh.

The analysis of call data reports (CDR) of mobiles phones allegedly used by the main suspects is also among the circumstantial evidence the SIT has presented in the chargesheet. The SIT has found that the main suspects attempted to make it seem like they were not in Bengaluru at the time of the murder but at their respective hometowns by either leaving their phones at home or switching them off.

According to a CDR analysis report of Ganesh Miskin (26), accused of being the armed rider of the motorcycle that brought Waghmore to Lankesh's home, says his phone, which was in Hubli, did not have any incoming or outgoing calls from 1.24 pm on September 4, 2017, to 5:51 am on September 6, 2017.

The SIT has also found that Miskin was in Bengaluru on September 4 and September 5, 2017, to execute the murder, which took place at around 8 pm on September 5 and that he boarded a bus to return to Hubli around 350 km from Bengaluru.

The government school attendance register of the six-year-old daughter of Suresh has also been presented as evidence to establish that he sent his family to their home in the Kunigal town so the alleged killers could use his house.

The school has provided a report stating that Suresh's daughter was absent from September 4 to September 9, 2017, as well as August 7 to 12 and June 17 to 20, 2017, when some of the preparations for the murder allegedly took place.

"The investigation so far has revealed that all the 18 accused persons are active members of an organised crime syndicate. This syndicate was formed in the year 2010-11 under the leadership of Dr Virendra Tawade alias Bade Bhaisaab. One former editor of Sanatan Prabhat provided financial support to this syndicate,'' the SIT said in an official statement about the charge sheet.