Three suspects accused of the gang rape and murder of two teenage girls in northern India have confessed. The case triggered outrage across India.
Police said on Sunday that the three suspects being held in custody for allegedly participating in the gang rape and murder of the two cousins, before hanging them from a tree, had admitted committing the crimes.
"Three main suspects have confessed to the crime, with one accused saying he knew the girls from before. But they are withholding details and are implicating others as well," a senior police officer told the DPA news agency by phone.
However, while helpful in the police investigation, he said it wasn't clear how much of a bearing the confessions would have when the case goes to trial.
"The court gives importance to statement of victims or their close associates, and how well police corroborate their version with scientific evidence to link the accused to the crime," he said.
The three main suspects in custody, who are cousins in their twenties, are facing murder and rape charges and if convicted could face the death penalty. Police on Sunday were still looking for two other main suspects in the case.
Two police officers have been arrested and two others suspended after the father of one of the victims complained that they had failed to investigate when he reported his daughter missing.
The 14- and 15-year-old victims, who were also cousins, came from impoverished families with no toilet facilities in their homes in the tiny village of Katra, in the Badaun district of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. They were apparently set upon by the perpetrators, after they had gone out into a nearby field to relieve themselves on Tuesday night.
The crimes caused outrage and protests in Badaun and New Delhi, with much of the anger directed at Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, who critics accuse of failing to tackle the problem of violent crime against women.
The investigation is expected to be handed over to federal authorities in the next few days.
The problem of violence against women in India sparked outrage and gained international attention after the fatal gang-rape of a student on a New Delhi bus in late 2012. The Indian government responded by tightening up its legislation on sexual violence, increasing prison terms for convicted rapists.
pfd/msh (AP, AFP, dpa)