Indian police say hysteria created 'monkey-man'
By staff and wire reports
NEW DELHI, India -- New Delhi police have said the marauding "monkey man," which terrorized the Indian capital over the past week, was neither man nor monkey but a result of public hysteria.
After an intensive search in which some 3,000 extra officers were put on the case, police said they had come up empty-handed in their quest for the "monkey man."
"If there are no physical clues, then it has to be the product of a fertile mind," assistant police commissioner Rajiv Ranjan told Reuters.
"It's nothing but fear psychosis," he added.
Descriptions of the nocturnal "monkey man" varied wildly with some saying it was a monkey-like creature with metallic claws while others said it was like a cat with tawny, glowing eyes.
One person said it had "flaming eyes and green lights on its chest."
Police say they have narrowed down the suspects in the attacks after a citywide search came up with nothing more than a strong suspicion the "monkey man" was not those of a mysterious animal but human pranksters or criminals.
The persistent reports of the hybrid creature attacking people at random triggered panic in the city of 13 million and led to at least three deaths.
Dozens of other residents complained they were injured by the monkey man.
Police said the scare appeared now to be dying down.
"Apprehension has gone down considerably. All is quiet here," deputy police commissioner Vivek Gogia said
Vigilante and money reward
At the height of the panic, vigilante groups armed with sticks patrolled the streets at night on the lookout for the creature and police announced a 50,000 rupee ($1,067) reward for information leading to the capture of the "monkey man."
Around 348 reports of sighting or attacks by the shadowy "monkey man" had been received by authorities by early Monday morning, police said.
All alleged victims were now being referred to psychologists and the Central Forensic Laboratory had also been asked to examine injuries, police said.
The first reported attack of the "monkey man" was on April 8 in the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh and reports of the creature later spread to Delhi.
Most of the reported attacks in Delhi took place in poorer neighborhoods where many people sleep outdoors in the sweltering summer heat.
"The moment somebody shouted 'monkey man,' people would run helter-skelter which is how most injuries occurred," Ranjan said.
Many still believe
However, it might be difficult to convince the New Delhi residents otherwise.
Thousands of people in the capital still believe a monkey-man is on the loose, climbing up on rooftops and attacking men, women and children in their homes.
Residents lit Hindu prayer fires, trying something new to rid them of the supposed menace.
It's no laughing matter either. Apart from the three recorded deaths, more than 60 have been injured in the panic caused by fear of the monkey man.
Tired and scared, the civilian's patrollers sometimes turned violent. An angry crowd smashed one van when they suspected it was the monkey man's getaway car.
Police say they now think the initial rumors may have spurred a gang of pranksters into dressing up and scaring people.
"Somebody is doing all this in a planned way to create panic among the people. People are now panicked. There seems to be some conspiracy," one officer said.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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