New Delhi: On the sweltering evening of 5 May, 2011, 20-year-old engineering student Shobhit Modi set off for an outing at the swanky DLF Promenade Mall in Delhi. At about 9.10 pm, he called to let his family know he would be back in half an hour. He never made it home alive.
Some 40 minutes after he made the call, Shobhit was spotted by a guard near his house in South Delhi’s Vasant Kunj, writhing in pain and bleeding profusely from four stab wounds. He was trying to stand and walk, but collapsed and became unconscious. His father soon rushed him to the hospital but Shobhit succumbed to his injuries.
For the next seven years, the Delhi Police, which was investigating the case, profiled over 7,500 potential suspects, ranging from friends, family and classmates, to local criminals, and even announced a Rs 1 lakh reward for a tip-off that might lead to an arrest. However, no arrest was ever made.
The police probed all angles and motives — from robbery, to road rage, to drugs, to personal enmity with someone from his college, to the possible involvement of the ‘disapproving’ family of his girlfriend. But nothing panned out. No eyewitness could be traced and the murder weapon was never found.
Finally, in May 2018, the police filed an “untraced” report in the case, stating that despite an extensive probe, they could neither identify the culprit(s), nor their motive for killing Shobhit.
Eleven years after the murder, Shobhit’s family is still haunted, but has made an uneasy peace with the possibility that they will never have answers.
“I get numb when anyone asks me about my son. It is that feeling of helplessness, defeat. So many years have passed and we still do not know who took our son away from us. It is a terrible feeling,” Shobhit’s father Suraj Modi told ThePrint.
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What happened that night?
Perhaps one of the most wrenching details of the case is that Shobhit Modi, a second-year student at Manav Rachna University in Faridabad and an alumnus of the prestigious Delhi Public School (DPS) R.K. Puram, had almost made it home before his assailant stabbed him near the society’s gate — once in his chest, once in his abdomen, and twice in his back.
To reconstruct what transpired on the night of 5 May, 2011, the Delhi Police used his phone location to help chart the route he took home from the DLF Promenade Mall.
They then questioned over 1,000 auto drivers plying the route, hoping that someone might have seen the young man being stabbed or beaten.
There were some signs that there could have been an altercation. Besides the stab wounds, Shobhit also had abrasions on his right hand and both knees, and his t-shirt was torn.
“We were certain that there was a scuffle and that Shobhit was beaten before he was stabbed,” a police officer who was involved in the investigation told ThePrint.
But neither the auto drivers nor the hawkers, vendors and security guards in the area reported seeing anything.
“We could not find a single eyewitness, despite it not being that late in the night,” the police officer added.
An analysis of call detail records (CDR) and other data from Shobhit’s phone also did not yield any useful clues.
“A CDR and data dump analysis was conducted. Over 800 employees of the DLF Mall were questioned. Wherever he went inside the mall, who all he met, calls he received while he was at the mall, everything was checked, but we found nothing,” the officer said.
An affair, enmity, robbery, drugs — angles that fell through
Soon after Shobhit collapsed, bleeding, his phone rang. The guard who was trying to help him answered the call. It was the woman Shobhit was dating at that time. The guard told her about Shobhit’s condition who then informed his family.
During the course of the investigation, this woman and her family became prime suspects in the case.
“Shobhit’s family suspected the involvement of the woman’s father in his murder. That is because the two were in a relationship and the woman’s father did not approve of their friendship,” a Delhi Police officer who was privy to the investigation told ThePrint.
According to the police, in February that year the woman’s father had also visited Shobhit’s house and expressed his disapproval. Shobhit’s father had also alleged the woman’s father had hired goons to misbehave with his son in October 2010.
“The woman’s father had asked Shobhit to maintain distance from his daughter, but they remained in touch. This is why Shobhit’s father suspected he may be behind the murder. Following this lead, we investigated and interrogated all the family members of the woman multiple times but did not find any material to implicate them,” the second officer said.
The next angles the police chased were those of robbery or personal enmity.
“We thought maybe it could be robbery, but since Shobhit’s phone and the Tissot watch he was wearing were intact, it seemed unlikely,” the first officer said.
Nevertheless, the Delhi police pursued this angle just to make sure. “We rounded up people who were involved in robberies in the past, members of organised gangs, but did not get any information from them. Each angle we were probing was hitting a dead end,” the officer added.
Yet another angle was drugs. “During investigation we were told that Shobhit smoked [marijuana]. So we rounded up the local drug suppliers to probe if they could be behind the killing but found nothing,” he said.
Attempts to uncover personal enmities also yielded nothing. “We went to his college and questioned his classmates, friends, to know if he had picked a fight with anyone in the past, or had any enemies. But again, we could not reach any conclusion,” he added.
‘There will never be closure for us’
For Shobhit Modi’s family, the last memory they have is of him bleeding profusely from the four stab wounds. They are still haunted by his death, but have now stopped talking about the case to anyone. Their anger has subsided and the will to fight has waned.
“What can we really do? I did what I could. I fought. I gave whatever assistance I could to the investigators. I also moved the court for a CBI probe, which was not granted. What more could I have done, I wonder?” said Suraj Modi.
“All my attempts failed, the police could not find the killers and now I feel we will never know,” he added. “We do not talk about it anymore at home.”
Modi said he got to know about the police filing an untraced report in the case from the media.
“We got to know that they have filed a closure [report] through news reports. The police said they could not find the killers or establish the motive,” he said. “I didn’t even know how to react. For them maybe it was just another case, but for us, he was our son. This may be a closure for them but for us, it never will be.”
Read part 1, part 2, and part 3 of the series.
(Edited by Asavari Singh)
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