Three young sisters from a small, rural village in India have been raped and murdered then dropped into a well.
The three girls — aged 11, nine and six — went missing on Valentine’s Day from their home village of Murmadi in Lakhni tehsil after they finished school.
The bodies of the sisters were found last week, two days after they went missing in the Bhandara district of Maharashtra state, police superintendent Aarti Singh said.
Singh told reporters:
“The bodies of the three young girls were found in a well, with their schoolbags and footwears. The post-mortem has confirmed that the girls were raped and then murdered.”
As yet, no arrests have been made but the superintendent said four people had been held for questioning and an investigation had been opened.
Sky News reports that family members said the girls had gone out to look for their mother and no one heard from them since then.
India’s NDTV broadcaster has reported the children’s grandfather as saying they were lured away by strangers who promised them food.
The girls, who lost their father four years ago, live in poverty in their home village.
News of the deaths has led to protests in the village, echoing those that erupted in the capital New Delhi after the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student on a bus in December.
According to the Daily Mail, local community leader Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said:
‘The incident is extremely deplorable and painful. I appeal to the people to maintain calm and cooperate with the law-enforcers.”
The sisters’ deaths have also re-opened a nationwide debate in India about the treatment of women and girls and the endemic problem of sex crimes.