Exclusive: Mumbai Top Cops Suspected Sheena Murder 3 Months Ago
Exclusive: Mumbai Police top cops suspected foul play 3 months ago in Sheena’s disappearance. Chandan Nandy reports.
A handful of the Mumbai Police top brass suspected as early as three months ago that foul play was involved in the disappearance of Sheena Bora, with city police commissioner Rakesh Maria forming a small team of investigators that laid the groundwork for the arrest of Indrani Mukerjea, the prime accused in the murder of her daughter.
How Mumbai Police Prepared for the Arrest of Indrani Mukerjea
Mumbai Police sources revealed to The Quint that the sudden transfer of Inspector Dinesh Kadam and Deputy Superintendent of Police Sanjay Kadam from the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) to Khar police station indicated that Maria had hand picked officers whom he could rely on to successfully investigate the potentially sensitive case.
Once the core team was in place, investigators first located Indrani Mukerjea’s driver Shyam Rai, who, after the alleged murder on April 24, 2012, and the burning and disposal of the body in the forested area of Pen in Raigad district the next day had taken to driving an auto rickshaw. The police then began an intensive and extensive surveillance on Rai.
How the Police Laid the Ground for Driver Shyam Rai’s Arrest
They tapped Rai’s mobile phone, watched his movements and kept an eye on whom he met for almost three months before he was arrested on August 21 on the charge of possession of a “foreign-made” pistol. An Arms Act case was promptly slapped against him. While officially the police have claimed that an informer tipped them off that Rai was in possession of the weapon, other sources suspect that the so-called “unlicensed” gun may have been planted on the driver.
This would have enabled the investigators to take him in on a charge serious enough for him to be interrogated for a few days. The decision to pick up Rai was taken after the police received a second credible tip-off, in all likelihood from one of Sheena’s closest school friends who lives in Meerut. Sheena had attended this friend’s wedding in November 2011 following which the couple visited Mumbai and met Sheena before her disappearance.
It strains credulity that a driver, regardless of how long he has been employed or if given monetary inducements to buy his silence, would take part in a murder and become a witness to the alleged “strangulation” in the vehicle on April 24, 2012. Or that he would become an active accessory to the killing when Sheena’s body was burnt at Pen. Did he tell the full truth to the police or was the Arms Act case enough to make him sing a “certain tune”? Could Sheena Bora’s death have taken place elsewhere and not in the moving vehicle?
The Difficulty Before the Prosecution
Sources familiar with the detection of Sheena Bora’s remains told The Quint that when they visited the spot “we found the remains to be charred with only tiny bits of flesh sticking to the fingers.” This indicates that no viscera samples were collected at the spot, which may weaken the prosecution case when it comes up for trial.
What will also likely affect the police’s story is proving strangulation. Without an exhaustive autopsy report, the prosecution will find it challenging to produce evidence showing ligature marks on Sheena’s neck. Besides, there is the question as to whether the police have been able to recover a stole allegedly used to strangulate Sheena.
Probing Police Inaction Three Years Ago
Two officers, including Deputy Superintendent of Police, Pradeep Chavan, spoke with their superior, Raigad Superintendent of Police R D Shinde, on May 23, 2012, and informed him of the grisly discovery. Sources revealed that Shinde instructed the two officers “to not bother about it.” Shinde is now being investigated for not directing his subordinates to either register an accidental death or unnatural death case when the human remains were found. He could not be reached for comments.
“The two officers did not question Shinde’s judgment because he is considered to be very influential and politically connected. They did not want to upset him by defying his instructions,” a police officer closely involved in the probe against Shinde said. Although they did not defy Shinde, one of the officers had the good mind to record Shinde’s instructions in the police station diary.
Mumbai Crime Branch officers The Quint spoke to, said emphatically that when faced with human body parts it is “mandatory” for any policeman to file a murder case when it was evident on May 23, 2012, that the body was burnt. Yet, Shinde, a promotee IPS officer, did not order his officers to register either a murder case or an unnatural death or even an accidental death report. The least that could have been done was to follow due procedure and register a case recording the discovery of “an unidentified body which, for unknown reasons, has been murdered by unknown persons,” sources said.
These lapses have led investigators to probe whether Shinde was simply casual about the discovery of human remains in Pen or whether any officer senior to him intervened to stall the case from going ahead. Call records of officers of Pen police station and of Shinde are being examined to detect the possibility of the involvement of any senior officer.
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