The horrific true story that inspired Netflix's new procedural Delhi Crime
The story of a young woman who died after being raped by six men in a moving bus, shocked the world in its brutality – and a new Netflix police procedural drama series looks at piecing together how the perpetrators were caught and brought to justice.
The new crime series, Delhi Crime delves into the horrific events of December 2012, when a young student was gang raped and her male friend, assaulted as they made their way home after watching the film Life of Pi in South Delhi.
The subsequent rape and eventual death of 23-year-old- medical student Jyoti Singh launched angry protests across India and the rest of the world, and kick-started one of the most important manhunts of the decade.
The bus took an unusual route, and Awindra became nervous. Then the bus stopped, the passengers locked the doors and turned off the lights and attacked Awindra and Jyoti. Awindra was beaten unconscious with an iron rod, and what followed was a sustained sexual and physical attack on Jyoti. Six men took turns raping her, beating and biting her, and sexually assaulting her with the iron rod they used to knock Awindra unconscious. This continued for an hour.
According to The Guardian, Singh initially told the police: ‘They tore my clothes and raped me in turns. They hit me with an iron rod and bit me on my entire body with their teeth. They took all belongings, my mobile phone, purse, credit card, debit card, watches, etc. Six people raped me in turns for nearly one hour in a moving bus.’
Afterwards, the men dumped them both on the side of the road. Singh managed to write, ‘I want to survive,’ on a piece of paper that was later handed to the police. Both Awindra and Jyoti were rushed to hospital.
What happened after the attack?
Jyoti suffered serious internal and external injuries. She suffered injuries to her genitals, abdomen and intestines. Medical experts told the Hindustan Times the men penetrated Singh with an iron rod, which ruptured her intestines and caused severe internal damage.
After five surgeries, on 26 December the Indian government decided to transfer her from a hospital in New Delhi to Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.
However during the flight there Jyoti reportedly suffered a cardia arrest. Her condition continued to worsen with severe brain damage and infection and she died on 29 December 2012.
Initially, because of victim privacy laws in India related to sexual assault, she was referred to only as ‘Nirbhaya,’ which translates to ‘fearless.’
Later when she died, her mother and father decided to release her name because they hoped that in doing so, it would remove the stigma victims of sexual assault often felt.
How did the investigation unfold?
Within 48 hours of the assault, police identified and arrested four men – Ram Singh, Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma and Pawan Gupta.
Following the initial arrest, two more people were picked up, Akshay Thakur and an unnamed juvenile who was 17 years old at the time of the attack.
The five adult men initially pled not guilty to 13 charges in court, including rape and murder, The New York Times reported.
As the court case continued into March 2013, Ram Singh reportedly killed himself in jail.
On August 31, the juvenile was sentenced to three years in a reform home.
Following months of back and forth in the courts, a judge found all four remaining men guilty, and sentenced them to death.
Chhaya Sharma, then the deputy commissioner of police (DCP) for south Delhi (and renamed Vartika Chaturvedi in the seven-part series) was one of the first to see Jyoti in the hospital, and her decisive action, fuelled by a burning need to see justice prevail and an empathy towards the victim, made sure the crime was a priority for the police.
Richie Mehta, the director of the Netflix series, said a female DCP being on the case was the reason the men were eventually caught.
He told the BBC: ‘To me, it all stems down to the fact that if the female DCP was not the first person to arrive at the hospital and did not get a chance to see this victim, and react the way she reacted, they probably wouldn’t have caught these guys,’
He added: ‘It was her reaction as a human being, as a woman, that marshalled everybody to make this happen.’
Sharma echoed these thoughts.’ Being a woman, I think it gave some credence to the case. When it’s rape, something happens to me – seeing the critical condition the victim was in, it moved me,’ she explained.
What happened to the rapists?
Over the years the men attempted to appeal the death penalty, and in May 2017, and July 2018 the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty verdict.
The juvenile was released from prison after three years of serving his sentence, to many people’s anger.
Joyti’s mother had compelled the government not to release him, and protests erupted across India following his release.
Delhi Crime is streaming on Netflix now.
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