Kollam: Kollam additional sessions court on Wednesday awarded three life sentences to a 25-year-old man for brutally raping and murdering his seven-year-old niece on September 27, 2017. He will also serve 26 years of rigorous imprisonment. The judgment was delivered by Kollam additional sessions judge E Baiju, who is in charge of the POCSO (protection of children from sexual offences) court.

The convict, who will have to undergo the sentences separately, has also been asked to pay a fine of Rs 3.20 lakh to the family of the victim. The prosecution case was that the convict had strangled his niece and raped her after taking her to a rubber plantation at Kulathupuzha, where he abandoned the body.

The convict used to live with the victim and her family at Anchal.

On the day of the incident, the girl was on her way to a tuition centre along with her grandmother when Rajesh assured them that he would drop her at her destination.

However, he took the girl to the rubber plantation, about 16 km away, in an autorickshaw and committed the crime.

Police had launched a hunt for the victim on the basis of a missing complaint from her mother.

Rajesh was subsequently nabbed from a forest at Kulathupuzha, where he was hiding.

The girl's relatives were present in the court on Wednesday.