The alleged rapist-cum-killer of four children of Chunian confessed to his crimes on Wednesday before a judicial magistrate, deputy prosecutor general Abdul Rauf Watoo said.
Sohail Shahzad, the prime suspect in the case, has been in police custody for more than a month. During the investigation, the suspect confessed to murdering four minor boys, the public prosecutor said.
He added that following his confession, the suspect — after approval from the trial court — was presented before a magistrate to record his statement under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
Four children — aged between eight and 12 years — had gone missing since June this year with the latest, eight-year-old Faizan, disappearing on the night of September 16.
The remains of three of them were found on September 17 from sand dunes near Chunian bypass, sending shock waves among the area residents who held protests to express concern over the continued lawlessness and failure of police to protect the lives of people.
Suspect Shahzad, a resident of Chunian, was arrested on October 1 after his DNA matched with samples recovered from the remains of a victim. Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar had announced his arrest at a detailed press conference. Next day, the 27-year-old suspect was produced before an anti-terrorism court in Lahore. He was remanded in police custody for 15 days and later his remand was extended twice.
Shahzad is the eldest of four brothers and three sisters. His father is a labourer and the family lives in a rented house.
In 2011, he was booked in a sodomy case and handed down five-year imprisonment by a local court. Later, he allegedly pressured the victim's family to reconcile and was eventually released from jail after one-and-a-half years.
During the first hearing of the Chunian case, when Shahzad was produced before the anti-terrorism court for the first time, the investigation officer had explained that the suspect had been brought to court in pursuance of a First Information Report registered against the sexual assault and murder of one of the four boys.
The cases registered over the other three boys' killings were being probed by a joint investigation team, he had explained.
At the next hearing, the officer had informed the court that the suspect's DNA had matched in two more cases and that he would be brought before the court in pursuance of those cases as well.
Child abuse in Kasur
The Chunian case was a grim reminder of the rape and murder of six-year-old Zainab Ansari, who was found dead in a trash heap near Shahbaz Khan Road in Kasur in January 2018. Hers was the 12th such incident to have occurred within a 10-kilometre radius in Kasur over a 12-month period. Her death had sparked nationwide protests and outrage.
The prime suspect, Imran Ali, was arrested on January 23, 2018, and on June 12 the Supreme Court turned down his appeal against the death sentence, noting that he had admitted to committing similar offences with eight other minor victims. Ali was subsequently executed in October last year.
In the last few years, Kasur has been rocked by multiple incidents of abuse, rape and killing of children.
In 2015, Kasur’s Hussain Khanwala village had attracted worldwide attention when a child pornography ring was busted. Hundreds of video clips had emerged showing a gang forcing dozens of minor boys and girls to perform sexual acts and filming them. The gang had also used the videos to blackmail families of the children and extorted millions in cash and jewellery from them.