… Two years after the girls were murdered, police scramble for leads

Yangchen C Rinzin 

Two girls, aged 8 and 9, were brutally murdered two months apart in 2019 leaving the nation in a state of shock and disbelief. 

The 8-year-old girl was allegedly raped and murdered on her way back from school in September 2019 in Paro. Similarly, a 9-year-old girl was found dead, her body mutilated and with animal bite marks, on December 9 morning by the stream that flows down by Dechenphug monastery in Dechencholing in Thimphu. 

Two years after the incidents police are hunting for the murderers. There is no lead in both cases and no suspect is arrested. However, police sources said that both the cases are still open and investigations are still ongoing. 

Paro police collected almost 1,003 DNA samples from suspects. Of that, 125 samples were sent abroad for DNA tests. However, all the results came back negative. These samples were selected based on the strong suspicions against suspects, according to police. 

All samples could not be sent due to budget constraints. Testing a sample costs around Nu 40,000.  

With the first batch of DNA tests showing no conclusive evidence, police are now waiting for the result of a DNA sample from a suspect. 

A police source in Paro said that although the investigation is underway there was no progress in the case as of now. 

“We interrogated all suspects arrested during the initial case, but couldn’t conclude anything when DNA test results were negative,” a police source said. 

“We’ve planted an informer and are still working out to find the suspect. We’re hoping people would coordinate and share information, as the place is frequented by many,” the official said. 

Police sources said that police try to get DNA of every suspect based on their history or if the investigation finds any grounds to suspect due to circumstantial evidence. 

Although in the initial part of the investigation, a suspect was arrested, the DNA result came otherwise. 

The police said that prior to the Covid-19 pandemic there were three dedicated police officers who worked together on the case. They could not continue the investigation after the pandemic after they were deployed for pandemic duty on rotation in various places.

However, as a follow-up and also to continue the investigation, police are now trying to put together a list of all past convicts or suspects of sexual harassment or rape who are outside prison, including those who were acquitted.

A police officer said that this is with the hope that there will be some lead in the case whereby the police can trace the whereabouts of the suspects on the day of the incident. 

“With this, we will narrow down the list and find if they were in that locality when the incident occurred,” a police official said. “So, we’re currently analysing all these details, as we wait for the DNA test result.”

As for the death of 9-year-old Dena Koirala at Dangrina in Thimphu, no one has been arrested so far. Police officials said that they were investigating the case but there is nothing new. 

Officials could not even conclude whether she was murdered or raped before murder. 

Initially the deceased was suspected to have died after an animal attack where the police saw fang marks. 

Later, in a twist to the initial narrative, a forensic report suspected she could have died from strangulation and that bite marks could have been after she died. However, everything remains a mystery. 

Meanwhile, police officials shared the lack of a forensic unit and facilities have often impeded solving such cases. 

A police source said that if such a facility was readily available, both the cases could have been solved long ago or they would have found a lead. 

“We wouldn’t have to send DNA samples abroad. One reason why an investigation is often delayed is due to delay in DNA results, for which we’ve to wait for months sometimes.”

However, with the government approving a budget for the construction of a forensic laboratory by the end of next year, police are hopeful it would contribute to strengthening the investigation. 

Edited by Tshering Palden