LAHORE - An ordinary-looking person has been found involved in an extraordinary evil – rape and murder of at least seven children, as young as five-year-old, reported by police in Kasur district of the Punjab during the last couple of years.

Resident of Road Kot, Imran Ali, 24, also a neighbour of Zainab, is said to be a carpenter by profession. He joined protesters after discovery of the body of the latest victim early this month. He was also seen among relatives of the victims as media persons rushed to the violence-hit district. The police could not reach the serial killer unless the DNA profiling proved him guilty in at least seven similar cases.

Imran had left school when he was in class-III. Many local residents on Tuesday were in a state of shock as they came to know that the serial killer police were hunting for was in fact Imran Ali.

The father of this serial killer had died a couple of months ago, according to the initial investigations. Police said the killer’s father Muhammad Arshad had been suffering from mental illness.

The suspect used to participate in religious gatherings. He was living with his two brothers and four sisters. At least five relatives of the suspect including his two brothers Farhan and Fahad were also arrested by police last week.

The house of the killer is located just 120 metres away from the victim’s residence. Hence, he was familiar with the child. He raped and killed at least seven children within a radius of two kilometres during the last two years but the police failed to trace him.

The police in Kasur district reported at least 11 cases of child rape and murder since 2015. The latest killing led the police to find out that the criminal they were hunting for was a “serial killer.” Before this, police never investigated this element despite a series of child murder cases reported in the same locality.

During the Zainab murder case probe, the police established on the basis of DNA reports of the victims that a single person was involved in at least seven rape and murder cases. Several forensic experts were sent to Kasur for DNA sampling of local population soon after authorities discovered that the rapist on the loose, in fact, is a “serial killer”.

The joint investigation team comprising police investigators and intelligence operatives arrested the suspect after two weeks-long investigations. The police interrogated a few thousand people and collected DNA tests of at least 1150 residents of the locality.

“Imran was arrested as a result of DNA profiling. Also, during his polygraph tests, the suspect confessed to his crime before an investigation team,” said a police officer, who was familiar with the development.

The first DNA test was conducted on January 14 and the second DNA test was carried out by forensic experts on January 20. “The DNA matching was 100 percent. In his (video-recording) statement, the suspect confessed to raping and killing six other children,” the officer explained.

Earlier, police on Tuesday claimed to have arrested the main suspect behind at least seven child rape and murder cases reported in Kasur district in recent years. The first case of child rape and murder had surfaced in June 2015.

Zainab Amin was abducted on Jan 4 this year when she was going to her aunt’s house nearby for Quran lessons. She was found murdered after being raped on a heap of garbage in the same locality on Jan 9.

The latest child rape and murder case sparked violent protests across Kasur as traders announced complete shutter down strike for two days. The horrific killing made headlines across the globe and brought international condemnation.

Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, addressing a news conference in Lahore on Tuesday, said the “serial killer” would be tried in the anti-terrorism court. The chief minister said the “beast” should be brought to justice and he must be tried according to the law.