One would disappear every few weeks -- a boy on his way to buy juice, a teenage girl coming home from a day of housecleaning.
Police said Saturday that a businessman and his servant had confessed to raping and killing at least 15 children and women in New Delhi's prosperous Noida suburb in the last two years, dumping their dismembered bodies in drains where remains recently were found.
The case highlights a familiar complaint in India, where many say police often ignore the poor.
Noida residents say 38 people have disappeared, mostly children of migrants, servants and street vendors. Relatives say the disappearances went largely uninvestigated.
Shagri Sagar, 36, said she had told police that her cousin, Beena Haldar, 13, disappeared in March 2005.
"They said, 'You people give birth to these children and then let them loose in the street, and they disappear. What can we do?' " Sagar said. "They could have stopped these killers."
Senior police officials insist that they did everything possible, but the Press Trust of India news agency said five officers had been suspended for negligence over the cases.
The suspected killers -- Mohinder Singh Pandher, a businessman who owned the house where the slayings are believed to have taken place, and his servant, identified only as Satish -- were charged Saturday with kidnapping, raping and murdering 10 children and five women.
Noida police chief R.K.S. Rathore said Pandher asked Satish to lure children with sweets, or promised work to young women. They said that Satish also confessed to sexually abusing children.
After raping the victims, the two would strangle and dismember them, Rathore said.
"They would dispose of the bodies at night, throwing the head and the body parts, placed in different bags, in the drain behind the house," he said.
Police dug up drains abutting Pandher's house over the weekend, finding bags with skulls and bones. They said they were led to Satish when he used a missing girl's cellphone, which they had been tracking.
Pandher's one-story white house, with a small verandah and garden, is on a block that is a picture of the new India -- houses with stucco and sandstone facades, and shiny foreign cars in the driveways.
But behind the houses, the back alleys where Satish allegedly did his hunting are full of dilapidated concrete buildings, tin-roofed shanties and huts.