Indian police arrested an ambulance driver this weekend hours after he allegedly raped a Chinese coronavirus patient en route to the hospital in central Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district.
According to the Hindustan Times, police arrested the suspect within hours of the alleged crime, which reportedly took place after two family members experienced symptoms after testing positive for the coronavirus and were taken to the hospital in an ambulance without any other family members present.
The first woman was admitted to a specialized coronavirus facility, while medical authorities advised the driver to take the other woman to a separate hospital some four kilometers away.
Police say the driver took a detour around 18 kilometers away, before allegedly raping the 22-year-old woman and threatening her with “dire consequences” should she report his crime. Undeterred, the woman informed doctors about what allegedly happened, and a body examination consequently confirmed that she had been a victim of sexual assault.
“She was picked up from the house around 10 p.m. and dropped at Adoor CFLTC, from where Noufal picked her up along with an elderly woman,” assured KG Simon, superintendent of Pathanamthitta police. “He committed the crime at a secluded place near Aranmula after dropping the other woman at Kozhencherry CFLTC.”
The suspect is a 29-year-old man with a history of criminal activity, including an alleged assassination attempt. Health officials claim the company managing his ambulance recruited him to meet elevated demand on a temporary basis. A probe is underway to find how his criminal record did not surface in the hiring process.
“It appears to be a planned crime. The driver took a circuitous route … We have collected all the evidence,” Simon added. “We will fast-track the trial to hand out stringent punishment to the accused.”
The Times noted that the case has triggered “outrage and political bickering in the left-run state” as politicians attempt to shift the responsibility onto one another. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala of the Indian National Congress said lapses on the part of the state government allowed the crime to take place.
“The woman was sent alone in an ambulance with the culprit … Police now say he has a criminal background; why was this not considered before he was appointed?” he asked. Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state chief K Surendran demanded the resignation of health minister KK Shailaja. Protesters also attempted to storm Shailaja’s house, forcing police to deploy water cannons in an attempt to control the crowd.
Youth Congress workers tried to jump the barricades put in front of Health Minister KK Shailaja's house to protest the rape of a #COVID19 patient by an ambulance driver following which police used water cannons to disperse them.
— The New Indian Express (@NewIndianXpress) September 7, 2020
Responding to the incident, Pathanamthitta district medical officer A L Sheeja explained nurses only accompanied patients in ambulances if their condition was severe as the service was outsourced to a private firm.
“As per regulations, an emergency medical technician (EMT) has to go in the ambulance, but in this case only the driver was present. We do not know why the EMT was absent,” she said. “There was a delay in tracking her as we first went to her residence in Pandalam.”