Two teenage girls who were found hanged from a mango tree had been gang-raped before their murder, police in India have claimed.
The girls, who were aged 14 and 15 and are believed to be cousins, disappeared from fields near the village of Katra, in Uttar Pradesh state in the north of the country. Investigators have made three arrests - including two police officers - since the gruesome crime.
Hundreds of locals who are furious at the perceived inaction by police held a silent protest on Wednesday demanding retribution, preventing the police from taking down the bodies.
Women staging an anti-rape protest in India earlier this month
Pictures broadcast on Indian TV show the bodies of the girls still hanging from the tree. An autopsy showed the hanged girls had been raped and then strangled.
"We are still investigating how the girls went missing and were allegedly raped and hung from a tree," a senior police officer told the BBC.
National Commission of Women member Nirmala Samant, said: "It's a horrific crime, we will be sending a team there to investigate matter."
"The Government has promised that they will provide women safety. But it has not fulfilled yet."
It is the latest case of sexual violence against females to send shockwaves through India. In 2012, a gang of men raped a 23-year-old Delhi student who subsequently died of her injuries, a case that "shocked the collective consciousness of India", according to the judge who sentenced the perpetrators to death.
SEE ALSO:India's Rape Problem
Dalit women, traditionally regarded as "untouchables" in India, have this month staged a protest at the rise of rape cases of Dalit women in Haryana, in front of residence of its chief minister.