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Elderly Woman’s Skeleton in Mumbai Flat: Note Points at Suicide

According to neighbours, Asha Sahani was suffering from depression after her husband’s death.

Published
India
5 min read
Asha Sahani’s skeleton was found in her flat. Photo for representational purposes only.
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Rituraj Sahani, the 43-year-old NRI techie who discovered his mother's skeleton at their Andheri apartment two days ago, is not just grappling with the sudden confrontation with her death. He is also faced with the guilt of not having checked sooner on his mother, who has probably been dead for months. And now, Rituraj's building residents allege, the press has presented him with a third woe - oblivious to his circumstances, they've declared him an irresponsible son.

Residents said that 'Tony' was a loving son, and was facing a tumultuous time over his divorce petition with his wife. The couple's 10-year-old son was living with Rituraj, and it was impossible for the man to have left the child alone in the US, and fly to India to visit his mother.

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"He did come once, but since his mother didn't answer the door, he left. This was late last year," said Madhu Kedia, a 59-year-old woman residing in the building,

Madhu Kedia, a neighbour of the Sahanis.
Madhu Kedia, a neighbour of the Sahanis.
(Photo: Puja Changoiwala)
Also, Asha (the deceased) was not completely stable after she lost her husband in 2013. Although she would exchange formal greetings, she wasn’t the same. She was depressed, and suspected that everyone was after her money, including her son. Obviously Tony would feel hurt when this would come up, and Tony and Asha had arguments over it. And since she was also suspicious of her house helps, including one who had been serving her family for the past twenty five years, they all quit their jobs at her residence.
Madhu Kedia, Neighbour

Seconding the building residents’ revelations, a senior official from the Mumbai police, who did not wish to be named said:

Rituraj’s divorce petition had been ongoing for a few years now, and in all this while, his son was staying with him. After the couple was granted divorce recently, Rituraj took the first opportunity he could find to travel to India, and check on his mother. He obviously feels guilty about not getting here earlier, but in their last conversation in April last year, she had told him that she was weary of living alone, and that she would get rid of her domestic helps, and move to an old age home. She had told him that she would be out of touch, and that he should not worry about her.
A senior Mumbai police official

The cops said that a few weeks before Rituraj had his last conversation with his mother, he had flown her to the US. He had hoped that his mother would live with him for a couple of months, but she returned within a week.

‘The climate doesn’t suit me,’ she told a neighbour upon returning to the city, ‘I have issues with my bowel movements there.’

Rituraj, an IT manager, moved to the US in 1997. He would visit his mother twice every year. Around 12 years ago, he got married to a woman from Bangalore, who was born and brought up in North America. The couple had a son, but their relationship was not stable. And soon after, Rituraj’s step-father (Asha’s second husband) passed away, leading to trouble with his mother.



Andheri’s Bellscot Towers, where Asha Sahani lived.
Andheri’s Bellscot Towers, where Asha Sahani lived.
(Photo: Puja Changoiwala)

Rituraj reached his tenth floor residence in Lokhandwala, Andheri’s Bellscot Towers at 4.30 pm on Sunday. After his mother did not respond to the door bell, he arranged for a duplicate key, and entered the apartment only to find his mother’s fully clothed skeleton lying on one of the beds. The police, upon reaching the apartment, deduced that the 63-year-old had probably been dead for months since all of her flesh had decomposed completely.

It was dark in that apartment since the electricity board had cut off the line following non-payment of bills. The windows were open (which probably suppressed the smell of the decaying flesh), and there were tens of pigeons inside the house. Rituraj just stood shocked. He couldn’t believe that his mother was dead, that she had been dead for a while.
Subhash Khanvilkar, senior inspector, Oshiwara police.

In another development, the police have recovered Asha’s suicide note from the apartment, where the deceased has written that she was taking the drastic step on her own accord, and that no one should be held responsible for her death.

The police suspect that since the senior citizen was lying on a bed, she had probably consumed poison.

Since the post mortem report could not confirm the cause of her death, her viscera has now been sent for chemical analysis. Investigators hope to determine Asha’s time and cause of death through this examination.

Since the apartment was dark when we first visited, police officials and forensic experts visited the apartment again on Tuesday. There were Rs 50,000 lying in cash on the bed, next to her skeleton. The suicide note – a brown piece of paper – was found under those bundles. Rituraj identified the handwriting on the note as his mother’s. We also found three bottles of some spray from that bedroom. One of them was empty. We’re probing the contents of these sprays, and if these were used by the deceased to end her life.
An Oshiwara police official

Asha’s last rites were performed at an Andheri crematorium on Monday. The police said that they do not suspect any foul play in the incident since the apartment was locked from inside, and there were no signs of robbery. The Oshiwara police will now record Rituraj’s detailed statement for further clarity. “He’s too shocked, hence, we’ve refrained from speaking to him so far,” said Khanvilkar.

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Residents of Asha’s housing society said that after the senior citizen “went missing” following April last year, they would often wonder where she was. However, since she had mentioned that she was going to move to an old age home to her neighbours, they assumed she must have done just that. The only suspicious bit was that she didn’t intimate anyone before doing so. The smell of the decaying flesh was never a concern since the building stands next to a nullah, and foul stenches in the vicinity are routine.

“We were in touch with Rituraj over email for the building’s maintenance fee, and other society issues. But even he didn’t know where his mother was. He filed a missing person’s complaint online from the US, and even we approached the cops. Acting on both the complaints, the police did arrive at the housing society, but returned after Asha didn’t respond to the door bell. They couldn’t have torn her door down – that would be trespassing. And even we couldn’t break into her apartment. She was already suspicious of everyone,” said a resident of the housing society, speaking to The Quint on the condition of anonymity.

Kedia, meanwhile, added, “Rituraj grew up with my son. I’ve seen him grow from a young boy, waiting for his school bus, to becoming this able, independent man, who still doted on his mother as much. It breaks my heart – when I read these press reports denigrating him, and his relationship with his mother. Don’t make a god out of him, and please, don’t make him a devil.”

Rituraj was not available for comment.

(The writer is a journalist, and author of the critically-acclaimed true crime book, ‘The Front Page Murders: Inside the Serial Killings that Shocked India.’)

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