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Is there a psychopath on the prowl in west Delhi?


New Delhi : Nobody has seen him and police dismiss him as a “media-generated idiom”. But fact or phantom, the ‘hammerman’ lurks at every corner in west Delhi’s Baljeet Nagar where people live in constant fear and wake up bracing for news that one more woman has been bludgeoned.

Police have failed to crack the mystery behind the four deaths in the working class neighbourhood in the last three months – all women who died of severe head injuries – attributed to him.

Besides, six other women have been attacked over the last two years, but survived their head wounds.

The modus operandi was identical.

According to residents of the area, all the victims were attacked in the dead of the night by the psychopath killer who has come to be known as ‘hammerman’ — because they were hit on the head with blunt objects.Over 300,000 people residing in the semi-slum colony of Baljeet Nagar, close to the bustling Patel Nagar area, dread that the mystery killer will strike in their house next.

“People, especially women, are petrified. The whole day we keep discussing where he will strike next and which woman will become his prey in the middle of night,” Rama Devi, 45, who lives in the Bheel Basti in Baljeet Nagar, told IANS.

“We are relieved when we hear no awful news next morning. Police say that there is no hammerman. But if he does not exist then why are women continuously being attacked and killed?” she asked.

The fear is palpable with the number of early morning attacks increasing, even as residents, mostly illiterate labourers, carrying sticks and bamboos, patrol the congested and narrow bylanes of their slum every night.

The night vigil begins at 11 p.m. when the power supply goes off in the area and continues until 3 a.m. when it returns.

Delhi Police, however, have rejected the hammerman theory as a figment of the imagination. Officials believe the incidents of murders and attacks are unrelated and the hammerman could be a figment of mass hysteria.

“There is no hammerman or psychopath killer in the Baljit Nagar area of Anand Parbat. These are media-generated idioms,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (West Delhi) Robin Hibu has said.

He is of the view that the incidents were not interlinked or connected.

Between July this year and Sep 27, four women have been killed in the urban slum where houses are clustered close together.

On Sep 27, Sangita Gupta, a 22-year-old newly married woman, was found murdered at her parents’ home in the Janata Colony at around 4.30 a.m. with severe head injuries.

A week earlier on Sep 20, Sudarshana, a 45-year-old widow, was found killed without any clothes and severe head injuries in her one-room tenement.

On Aug 10, 19-year-old Rajni was murdered after being hit on the head. It’s the one case police claim to have solved with the arrest of her 80-year-old grandmother and her brother-in-law.

Before that, in July, people believe the hammerman claimed his first victim when he attacked 25-year-old Seema as she stepped out to go to the toilet around 4.30 a.m.

In all cases, robbery was ruled out as a motive because no valuables were stolen. Besides the fact that all the cases were women who had been hit on the head, the link seems to be that no family member was at home when the incidents took place.

After Sangita Gupta’s murder last week, police officials reiterated that it was not the work of any imaginary hammerman. The culprit could have been somebody who had a personal enmity with the women.

“He might have settled his scores thinking that people would again suspect the ‘hammerman’ behind the killing and he would go scot-free easily,” a senior police official told IANS.

The frightening saga of the hammerman, whether or not he actually exists, reminds many of the monkey man who was said to be on the prowl in northeast and east Delhi in 2001. Scores of people had come out complaining of having been attacked by a mysterious creature that looked like a monkey.

While the mysterious creature was never found, police had arrested several for spreading rumours.

Is it more of the same, or are the fears of the residents for Baljeet Nagar for real?