Police are saying that three cousins in the Uttar Pradesh state of Northern India have confessed to the gruesome rape and murder of two teenage girls who were found hanging from a tree in their town of Katra. Their crimes, if they are found guilty, are punishable by the death penalty.

The girls, 14-and-15-year-old cousins, had gone to relieve themselves in the fields outside of their home at night when they were raped and killed. Their house does not have an indoor toilet.

According to the Associated Press, the murders resulted in national outcry and protests from residents of the town until authorities were forced to investigate.

After the girls were found hanging from a mango tree on Wednesday, hundreds of angry villagers stayed next to the tree, demanding that police find the attackers before allowing them to remove the bodies. Indian television stations showed footage of the villagers sitting under the girls' bodies as they swung in the wind.

Two suspects were arrested on Wednesday and another on Saturday. According to police on Sunday, the three cousins, who are all in their 20s from an extended family, confessed to the crimes.

Authorities in the case have also arrested two police officers and suspended two others for not investigating the case when the father of one of the teenagers reported the girls missing on Tuesday night.

The case is expected to be taken over by federal authorities this week.

[Image via AP]