New Delhi: The Shraddha murder case is a chilling reminder of some of the most gruesome murders the country has witnessed in the past: the killings of Naina Sahni (1995) in Delhi, Neeraj Grover (2008) in Mumbai and Anupama Gulati (2010) in Dehradun.
On 18 May, 27-year-old Shraddha Walkar was killed allegedly by her live-in partner Aftab Poonawala after the couple had a fight. According to sources in the Delhi Police, Aftab claimed that he killed her in a “fit of rage” and then disposed of her remains by chopping the body into pieces. He allegedly stored the remains in a fridge that he bought the next day after killing her.
The murder of television executive Neeraj Grover had also drawn great public attention as the two accused were an actor and her fiance, a naval officer, and, more importantly, because of the reports that the victim was chopped into 300 pieces.
Lieutenant Emile Jerome Mathew had fatally stabbed Grover, 26, after he found the television executive in the flat of Kannada actor Maria Susairaj. Mathew and Susairaj then allegedly cut Grover’s body into pieces, stuffed them in duffle bags and burnt them.
In 2011, a Mumbai court charged Mathew with culpable homicide not amounting to murder and destruction of evidence under Sections 300 and 204 of the Indian Penal Code, and sentenced him to 10 years of imprisonment. Susairaj was charged with destruction of evidence and was given a three-year jail term.
The court had also observed that Grover’s murder wasn’t pre-meditated and happened at the spur of the moment. On 2 July 2011, Susairaj was released from the jail as she had already served her sentence of three years.
Jealousy & attempt to mislead police
On 7 May 2008, after Susairaj heard the doorbell at 7 in the morning, she opened the door and found a frustrated Mathew. The naval officer had arrived from Kochi, Kerala to Susairaj’s new apartment in Mumbai after she told him the previous night that Grover had come down to help her set up the house. When Mathew walked into his fiancee’s bedroom, he saw Grover. A fight ensued between the two men after which Mathew rushed to the kitchen, picked a knife and stabbed Grover, killing him.
Susairaj, then, reportedly went to a nearby mall around 10 am to buy bedsheets, curtains, two duffle bags and knives. The couple allegedly chopped Grover’s body and packed them into the bags. In her defence, Susairaj claimed that she felt threatened by Mathew and destroyed evidence under pressure. The duo then drove outside the city in a car and burnt the bags using petrol.
In the Grover case, Susairaj, initially, tried to mislead the police by saying that the victim hadn’t stayed back at her house on 6 May (a day before his murder) and had left for a party. His friends had approached the police saying Grover’s phone wasn’t reachable since 6 May. Susairaj claimed that Grover left his phone at her house, but the police found that a text message was received on his phone on the morning of 7 May.
Forensic examination confirmed that the blood on the knives was Grover’s. Moreover, witnesses — a watchman of Susairaj’s society and a petrol pump attendee — testified the movements of the duo after Grover’s death. Mathew was arrested after Susairaj’s confession.
In the Shraddha murder case, Aftab and his 27-year-old live-in partner would often fight over infidelity, money among other things. On the night of the murder, Shraddha had reportedly found some chats in Aftab’s phone and accused him of cheating.
The couple had been trying to work on their relationship for a while, sources in the Delhi Police said, adding that they took two trips to Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh before returning to the national capital.
In this case, so far, police suspect that Aftab had no accomplices and that he alone chopped the body and disposed of the remains in three different locations in a period of over four months. Police said the 28-year-old accused logged on to a dating app just four weeks after the crime and even brought a woman, a clinical psychologist, to the same house where the body parts were kept in the fridge.
Poonawala was arrested on 12 November, over a month after the Walkar family approached the Mumbai Police at the insistence of a friend.
He also allegedly tried to mislead his interrogators by saying that Shraddha left him on 22 May and that he didn’t know about her whereabouts. Both the Mumbai and Delhi Police questioned him after an FIR was lodged by her father. Shraddha’s friend Laxman Nada had alerted the father, saying that her phone is not reachable and that he hadn’t heard from her for months.
According to the police, till 9 June, Aftab even impersonated his live-in partner and kept talking to her friends. Mobile location of Shraddha’s phone, bank transfer from her account to Aftab’s and his changing statements is what led the police to him.
Other cases in the past
In the 1995 ‘Tandoor murder case’, 30-year-old Naina Sahni was shot dead by her husband — then Youth Congress leader Sushil Sharma — who tried to get rid of the body after chopping it into pieces and disposing them in a ‘tandoor‘ (clay oven) of a restaurant in Delhi. However, Sharma was caught after smoke from the tandoor caught the attention of policemen patrolling in the area. Sharma walked out of jail in December 2018, more than 23 years after he was handed life imprisonment for murdering his wife.
Like in the above mentioned murder cases, software engineer Rajesh Gulati chopped his wife Anupama Gulati’s body into some 70 pieces after killing her in Dehradun. The foreign returned couple would often have fights over suspicion of infidelity.
On the night of 17 October 2010, Anupama had hit the wall during a fight and fell unconscious. Gulati then allegedly smothered her to death and dismembered the body using an electric saw. He kept dumping the remains on the Mussoorie-Dehradun highway, the police said.
Suspicion arose only after nearly two months of the murder. Some body parts were recovered from the deep freezer. Gulati was convicted in 2017 and serving his life term in a jail.
(Edited by Anumeha Saxena)