The coldblooded killing of the 55-year-old activist who took rightwing politics head-on in Karnataka brought back memories of the murders of Kannada writer-thinker MM Kalburgi in Dharwad in 2015, communist leader Govind Pansare the same year in Kolhapur, and rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in Pune in 2013.
Gauri, returning home from work, was gunned down by three men on a two-wheeler between 7.45pm and 8pm in front of her home on Loop Road, II Cross, Ideal Homes, RR Nagar, police said.
The editor of Kannada tabloid 'Gauri Lankesh Patrike' parked her white Etios car outside the gate of her residence and began walking to the main door when three men opened five rounds of fire. Forensic sources said one.32 pistol was used and three bullets hit her in the chest. She was shot from 10-foot distance, indicating that the shooters were professionals. After she was fired at, she ran to the door and died instantly, police said.
"Usually, she would drive back home late at night. Today, she returned earlier and we heard gunshots and rushed out. For a few minutes, we could not understand what had happened. Then, we realized Gauri had been shot and she was lying in a pool of blood near the door of her house," a neighbour told police.
Neighbours said three men sped away on an unidentified two-wheeler after the killing. "I was in Koramangala when I heard the news. I'm deeply shocked. I have no clue who has done this. The inquiry should be handed over to the CBI," said Indrajit Lankesh, her filmmaker brother and one of the earliest to arrive at the spot.
Residents of an apartment complex in front of her house, where Gauri lived alone, alerted police.
Alerted by passersby, police squads from nearby stations, including Kengeri, RR Nagar, Byatarayanapura, Chandra Layout and Kamakshipalya, rushed to the spot. Hundreds of people gathered at the spot and raised slogans against communal elements. Her body was taken to Victoria Hospital for a postmortem.
"Gauri's killing has parallels with Kalburgi's. We've formed three teams to hunt the killers. She had called me last Thursday and said she wanted to meet me. She was to meet me on Monday, but she never turned up. She had received no threat calls," home minister Ramalinga Reddy told reporters.
"A neighbour, hearing cracker-like sound, came out and saw Gauri lying in a pool of blood. Four empty cartridges were recovered from near her body. According to family members, Gauri was living alone in the house. There are two CCTV cameras installed outside Gauri's house," police commissioner T Suneel Kumar said, adding: "The motive not known."
Another senior police officer said it was a killing over ideological differences. "We've a woman from the neighbourhood who saw the killers. We will use her to draw sketches of the killers," the officer added. Three special teams have been constituted to crack the case. Cops are searching for the keys to Gauri's house so that they can access footage. They are also searching her car for the house keys, sources said. Unlike the three previous ideological killings, this murder was carried out in the night.