A woman veterinarian whose charred body was found in Hyderabad was raped before being killed, police said, even as Telangana home minister stoked a controversy asking why she did not call police immediately.
Police said four people have been arrested in connection with the rape and murder, which has sparked a national outrage.
Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao's son and Municipal Administration Minister K T Rama Rao said he would 'personally monitor the case'.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi expressed shock over the incident, terming it as 'terrible, unprovoked violence' beyond imagination.
The Union Home Ministry said it will send an advisory to all states to take precautionary steps to check crime against women in the wake of the murder.
The 25-year-old veterinary doctor, who works in a state-run hospital, was raped and killed by the four, all of whom are lorry workers, on Thursday night, Cyberabad Police Commissioner V C Sajjanar told reporters in Hyderabad on Friday.
The victim parked her vehicle near a toll plaza at Shamshabad on Thursday evening and left for Gachibowli in Hyderabad, he said.
"The four people saw her parking her vehicle near the toll plaza at 6 pm on November 27 and while consuming alcohol, hatched a plan to commit the crime (rape), police said. One of them, Jollu Siva, deflated the tyres of the two-wheeler and offered to help her.
"Sensing trouble, the victim rang up her sister, informed her about the 'puncture' and expressed her fear about the man," they said.
One of the four accused took away her scooter on the pretext of getting it repaired.
Then Mohammad alias Arif, Jollu Naveen and Chintakunta Chennakesavulu forcibly took her inside a compound wall nearby.
Jollu Siva then returned with the vehicle and all of them repeatedly raped her.
Arif gagged her till she died. They kept the body in a lorry cabin to dispose it off later.
The four bought petrol and also took out some diesel from their vehicle, poured it on the body and set it ablaze, police said.
A milk vendor saw the burning body on Friday morning and initially thought it was a fire somebody had lit to keep out the cold.
Later, when he was returning, he found that it was the body of a woman and informed police, they said.
Police zeroed in on the accused with the help of CCTV footage and identified the lorry.
The Commissioner said the case would be tried in a fast-track court.
The woman's parents told reporters that some policemen did not respond properly when they went to file a missing person complaint and had commented that she must have gone out with someone.
Asked about the charge, Sajjanar said they would inquire into it.
Meanwhile, state Home Minister Mohammed Mahmood Ali stoked a controversy with his reported remarks that the victim should have called the police rather than her sister.
However, sources close to Ali, who visited the parents of the veterinarian, said he was only trying to say police intervention could have helped her.
He expressed anguish over the incident and asserted that the culprits would be handed out tough punishment.
"This girl is like my daughter. I feel sad over the incident...police are investigating," he said.
According to police, the victim had gone to the hospital and returned home on Wednesday evening. She again left around 5.50 pm to visit another clinic and parked her two-wheeler near Shamshabad toll plaza and took a shared cab.
Her younger sister in her police complaint had said she got a call from her sibling at 9.22 pm on Wednesday, stating she was still at the plaza as someone told her that her scooter had a flat tyre and offered to help her, taking the two-wheeler.
She also informed her sister that she was scared as there was a lorry in the vicinity and some people who had offered her help were near the vehicle, the complainant said.
The complainant said she called her sister again at 9.44 pm, but the phone was switched off following which they approached the police.
The body was found near a culvert on the Hyderabad-Bengaluru national highway, which is around 25 km from the toll plaza where she was last seen.
'Outraged and deeply anguished by the murder...I am confident that @TelanganaDGP & the police will catch the animals who committed this heinous crime & deliver justice at the earliest. Ill personally monitor the case too. Anyone in distress, please dial 100,' Rama Rao said in a tweet.
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi expressed sympathies with the victim's family.
'I'm shocked to hear about the brutal rape & murder of #DrPriyankaReddy in Hyderabad. How anyone could subject another human being to such terrible, unprovoked violence is beyond imagination. My thoughts & prayers are with the victim's family at this time of immense grief,' he tweeted.
Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said he has been in regular touch with officials of the Telangana government so that those involved in the woman's murder were punished.
"The ministry of home affairs will send an advisory to all states as a precautionary measure so that no such incident takes place in future," he told reporters outside Parliament in New Delhi.
"On behalf of the central government, I am talking to the state government officials. The Telangana DGP is also coming to Delhi today and he will meet me. Those who were involved in the crime should be socially boycotted and no lawyer should represent them," he added.