In a grisly turn of events, police arrested a man for bludgeoning two sleeping men to death on the crowded streets of Mumbai, India. Police investigation revealed that the accused, Suresh Shankar Gauda, murdered the victims on two different streets while onlookers continued to walk by.
“He just saw them sleeping on the road, picked up a stone and smashed it on their heads multiple times. He is then seen walking away from both spots,” a police officer who did not wish to be identified told local press.
The murders, which occurred on Oct. 23, transpired about a mile away from each other. CCTV footage shows a man, believed to be Gauda, walking past a sleeping victim after which he pauses in his tracks and returns to the spot. He proceeds to lift a heavy rock and smashes it against the victim’s head four times. Pedestrians are shown in the footage moving past the scene without intervening even as the accused left the vicinity. This was 15 minutes after the same man murdered another victim outside a busy fruit market in full view of the public, as seen in another CCTV video.
Gauda was arrested on Oct. 24 after he was found hiding near a police station. According to police, he confessed to the killings and told them he was previously arrested in 2015 for allegedly murdering a man on a sidewalk but was acquitted due to insufficient evidence.
“We suspect that he has attacked more people between 2016 and now. We are trying to check with all the police stations whether anyone in the city or the neighbouring districts was killed in the similar style,” an investigator told The Indian Express.
The identities of the victims are yet to be determined by police. People found to be sleeping on the streets of Mumbai are typically the city’s migrant laborers who work at night and rest near their workplaces. The victims could have also been among the city’s street-dwelling population. About 58,000 of the city’s 12.5 million people are experiencing homelessness, many of whom work irregular jobs as waste pickers, street vendors and construction workers.
A similar killing occurred on Oct. 11 in Mumbai, where a person experiencing homelessness struck and murdered another man with a block of concrete after squabbling about their sidewalk sleeping arrangement. An infamous case of similar murders involves Kolkata city’s “stoneman,” an unidentified serial killer who murdered 13 street dwellers with heavy stones. Over the years, the elusive and terrifying memory of the stoneman gained notoriety and has evolved into a well-known urban legend in the country.
Bystanders not intervening in crimes unfolding before them is also not unheard of. A well-known case of bystander apathy occurred in 1964, which involved the brutal stabbing of 28-year old Kitty Genovese outside her apartment building in New York. According to psychology experts, the phenomenon is not indicative of inadequate empathy or lack of compassion.
“It is easy to misconstrue the bystander effect as ‘people not caring,’ ‘people not doing things’ or even as a diffusion of responsibility. But in reality, it is a process of vicarious traumatization, where people witnessing the act are equally confused and impacted, which restricts one's ability to respond appropriately,” counselling psychologist Devika Kapoor told VICE World News.
“Causes could include being traumatised, being afraid of one’s own self or of not knowing the right intervention,” she added.
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