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KASUR: The joint investigation team (JIT) probing the grisly rape and murder of six-year-old Zainab decided on Monday to expand the radius of their investigation from 2km to 3km.

The investigators, including officers from police and secret agencies, who have been looking into the case since Jan 10, were earlier searching for the serial killer who is behind the deaths of several children in Kasur district over the last few years, within a 2km radius. They have now decided to widen the scope.

Police have conducted DNA tests of tissue samples obtained from around 300 suspects living within a 2km radius, who were taken into custody as part of the investigation, with no success yet. Police confirmed that the killings had taken place within a 2km radius.

The JIT has received four additional videos that could help the investigators. This is the first time, since the killings began, that video footage of the culprit has been recovered, that too, by the family of the victim.

The results of DNA tests indicate the involvement of one suspect in nine cases, including the case of a child who survived and is currently in a critical condition at the Children’s Hospital in Lahore. All the victims of assault were girls, aged between five and 10. The killer had first struck in 2015.

As many as five rape and murder cases involving children were reported within the jurisdiction of Sadar police station. A seven-year-old was the first victim, and her case was reported on June 15, 2015. The rest of the bodies were found in 2017.

Another six-year-old girl was found strangled in January 2017 in a B-Division police precinct.

The bodies of two girls were found near their homes in an A-Division police precinct in 2017. One of the girls was found barely alive in a pile of trash. She was brought to the Children’s Hospital in Lahore two months ago and has still not recovered.

The murder of Zainab Ansari had sparked protests that turned violent. The families of other victims of the serial killer had also joined the protests.

Investigators claim that they have received more surveillance footage of the culprit and were close to narrowing down on their target. According to a police official requesting anonymity, the investigators were largely depending on DNA evidence and video footage, while arrests were being made on the basis of suspects’ resemblance with a sketch of the culprit released by the JIT.

Separately, Kasur Deputy Commissioner Saira Umar and Child Protection Bureau’s district in-charge Zartab Khan held meetings with school teachers, students, traders and other stakeholders, asking them to inculcate awareness about such predators among children.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2018