A three-year-old girl has been raped and brutally killed before her dead body was dumped in a field, police confirmed.
An autopsy has confirmed the child, whose body was left in a sugarcane field after her murder, was raped before she died.
The sickening attack in Lakhimpur Kheri, India, has sparked outrage as the attacker remains at large, Times of India reports.
Initially, police and family didn’t find any visible injuries on the girl but doctors have now confirmed “internal tears” and a cause of death as strangulation.
The accused is thought to still be hiding in nearby sugarcane fields and armed police have been dispatched to track him down.
The girl’s family had accused a local man of being the killer in a bid to avenge the death of his wife.
Local media reports the suspect’s wife was killed by the victim’s uncle six years ago.
The victim, the eldest of two children, went missing on Wednesday, according to senior police officials.
Superintendent Satyendra Kumar Sing told media he broke down in tears when he found out the girl was raped.
Superintendent Singh told OutlookIndia: “The postmortem report has confirmed rape. I am with family members right now. Seven of our teams are working on the case.
“I am myself going for combing in sugarcane fields and strict action will be taken against the accused.”
He added: "Everyone including me could feel the pain after watching the body of the girl and I couldn’t stop my tears for a moment.
“After the autopsy confirmed that the little girl was raped, I feel that this act is an indelible taint on our society.
"The family has named an accused that has personal enmity but we are investigating this case from another angle as well.
“I have deployed four teams, including a SWAT team led by a circle officer, who are combing the sugarcane fields in the village where the accused might be hiding.”
The shocking case is the third brutal rape in 20 days in Kheri.
Last month, a 13-year-old girl was gang raped and killed in Isanagar and on August 25 an 18-year-old was raped and murdered by a tough in Neemagaon.