Ten months later, Cuffe Parade police fail to pin onus on even one of ‘seven’ accused, writes Gajanan Khergamker
Since November last, hundreds of surprise nakabandis, a 1,000-odd DNA tests and as many as seven ‘announcements’ in the public and media like of having got the rapist-murderer later, the police are left with a lot of data to process but none to pin the culprit.
After the body of two-year-old Jagriti Patel was recovered on November 13th last after three weeks of her going missing from a pavement outside her home barely 500 metres away, the police – unable to find a motive behind the crime – suspected she had been sexually assaulted before killing.
Here goes a peep into the series of arrests and claims that the police made in their attempts to solve the Cuffe Parade rape-murder cases.
Taxi driver nabbed as claim didn’t match call report!
During a routine inquiry, in January 2012, the Cuffe Parade police arrested a 32-year-old taxi driver Yusuf M Shaikh because he claimed he was driving his taxi at a place which didn’t match with his mobile call report! Within the zone and beyond, everyone went ballistic with joy thinking the killer had been caught.
It was only when deceased Jagriti’s father Ramesh went on to support Yusuf’s cries of innocence and a heap of supportive evidence before court was furbished that the taxi driver was released and the police returned to their investigation.
Within days, a second body, one of Karishma Chavan, was found at the same spot on January 18th earlier this year, blowing the cover off police claims of having got the culprit.
Drunk nabbed with condoms on person, playing with child
After a few months, on March 15, 32-year-old Mohan Yadav was arrested by the Cuffe Parade police under Section 363 after residents of the Shiv Shakti Chawl in Cuffe Parade nabbed him when he was allegedly playing with a toddler. After being roughed up by locals, Yadav handed over to the police.
On searching Mohan Dhaneshwar Yadav’s body, the police recovered a packet of condoms. The toddler’s uncle Shekhar Kamble reportedly said, “I saw my niece walking with a drunk stranger and pulled her away. Soon, passers-by joined me in bashing him.”
Once again, the police claimed to have got their man whose complicity was roundly disproved when tests revealed the DNA found on the victims didn’t match Yadav’s. Being drunk or having, on person, a packet of condoms doesn’t quite warrant charges of kidnapping which the police may be unable to stick for long. The cops were forced to get back to their job of finding the ‘real’ killer.
‘Accused’ caught while luring child with chocolate
The very next month, the Cuffe Parade police arrested a youth after locals caught him ‘attempting to flee’ with a five-year-old girl who had been playing outside her chawl. The ‘accused’ Krishna Pawar had allegedly lured her with a chocolate to take her away. The child’s eight-year-old sister alerted their father Maula Chand Shaikh who raised the alarm and rescued the child from Pawar. In what seems to be a violation of human rights and the constitutional safeguard that guarantees an accused’s presumption of innocence, the police went ahead in sections of the media to make public findings of their preliminary inquiries.
Allegedly, the police maintained, through sections of the media, that Pawar had said he had kidnapped the child to make her beg on the roads for him. To investigate the possibility of Pawar spilling the beans on a child-begging racket, the police took Pawar’s fingerprints, blood samples and DNA samples to match against evidence found with the bodies of the two victims.
Within days, on April 19th, a third child victim Angel Fernandes was raped and murdered. Her body was discarded into the sea off Cuffe Parade, quashing police claims to having nabbed the killer.
‘Missing’ father blamed for rape, murder of child
This time around, the police swiftly placed the onus of the murder on the biological father Rajeev Sharma who had been separated from the mother Suzan who had remarried and was ‘missing’ at that time.
The police alleged that the father who estranged relations with his wife and her family had raped and murdered his own child. Rajeev who was travelling to his hometown in UP returned the next day and pleaded ignorance. In the absence of any evidence, the police had to give him a clean chit.
Then, grandfather charged with the same offence
The police then went on to detain Angel’s grandfather James Fernandes and question him for the crime he had reported. “Koi nahin mila toh mujhe hi pakadke leke gaye,” says James Fernandes. “Abhi bolte hain ki apni biwi (from second marriage) ko leke aao aur naye saab se milo,” says James who alleged he was “tortured by the police,” and “delivered electric shocks” to confess to having raped and murdered his own grand-daughter Angel.
After James spoke of his torture to sections of the media, he was harassed further by the police who would keep calling him for questioning over and over again.
Cops chance on ‘absconder’ and examine odds
During the ‘investigations,’ towards April end, the police chanced upon 26-year-old Promod Kumar Mahanto, an accused in another minor’s kidnapping back in 2005.
Promod had called an electrician to tackle a power outage in the Ambedkar Nagar colony, where Angel lived. The body of Angel who went missing at the same time was found dumped in the sea behind the Maker Towers at Nariman Point, a day after she went missing.
It was during the ‘investigations,’ that Promod told the police he was an absconder in the kidnapping case of a 15-year-old girl in 2005. After being arrested in the 2005 case and a charge-sheet being filed, Promod absconded and never appeared before the court.
‘Profile’ matches CST kidnapper, claims cops
On June 10th, when images of a limping man kidnapping a four-year-old girl from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) were caught in the CCTV footage, the Cuffe Parade police claimed it was ‘their man’.
The police were swift to maintain that the CST victim’s profile and age matched with the previous victims and that the culprit had to be the same.
The victim Sangeeta Laxman Pawar was with her parents, who were asleep, when she was kidnapped. The city police expressed their dissatisfaction with the railway police sleuths who, they claimed, had spoiled their chances of nabbing the culprit by flashing the accused’s picture all across India on railway stations. “Bhag jayega woh abhi. Photo dikhayega to haath mein nahin aayega,” claimed the police.
Haridwar police nab kidnapper, quash theory
In early July, the alleged kidnapper, identified as Raju Kallu Gaur, was arrested by the Haridwar Police on the basis of the released CCTV footage of the kidnapping.
As a boy, Gaur was a beggar but his income had been affected as he grew older. He had apparently devised the scheme of kidnapping the girl to use her as bait and leverage sympathy. After she grew up, he planned to sell her into prostitution. The police, on their part, are back to twiddling their thumbs having run out of options and accused to train their guns on. The look for the Cuffe Parade rape-murder accused is still on!
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