A teenage girl from India was murdered and mutilated by her family after running off with her boyfriend, authorities say.
The acid-burned and butchered body of the 16-year-old, referred to as "Anjana" on social media, was found Sunday in Gaya, a city in Bihar, India’s third most populated state.
The girl’s family initially claimed in December she had been raped and murdered and went so far as to criticize the police for being too slow in their investigation.
Instead, police are now pointing fingers at the family for the teen’s death.
“It’s a case of honor killing,” Gaya’s police chief Rajiv Kumar Mishra, told The Guardian. “The girl eloped with someone on December 28 from her home in Patwa Panchayat but returned after three days. This angered the parents who plotted the cold-blooded murder with the help of a butcher friend.”
Mishra says an autopsy ruled out rape and that the girl’s sister told authorities she had seen her sister with a butcher on New Year’s Eve.
Police say after they recovered the body, they made numerous attempts to contact the family but that the family “made lame excuses and didn’t show up.”
“Their dubious attempt to escape interrogation further confirmed our suspicions,” Mishra said.
Police said the girl’s father, Tunjraj Prasad, had been formally arrested Friday along with his friend, a butcher, who was suspected of carrying out the killing.
The mother was also taken into custody, according to local reports.
The police chief said eloping is looked down upon in the traditional Indian community where conservative social structures exist. He added that locals typically freeze out the families of people who have married without permission.
Hundreds of people turned out for a candlelit vigil this week for the teen.
There are multiple high-profile killings each year of both men and women in India who marry without the consent of their families or community.
According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, there were 69 honor killings in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available.
Many activists argue that the number is much higher and that many killings do not go reported.
In 2014, The Hindu, an English newspaper, tracked 583 rape cases in court. It found that the single largest category of cases involved consenting adults who had eloped. The parents, usually on the women’s side, filed cases of rape against the men.