A year later, no clues to what killed Versova siblings Rameez and Rehab

A year after their death allegedly after a pest control operation at their Versova residence, there is still no clarity as to what or who killed siblings Rameez (25) and Rehab Chougle (27). The expert committee formed to look into the matter, says that cops have replied to only two of the 15 questions they asked and no investigation can progress if cops hold back evidence.

Rehab and Rameez Chougle (below) died after a pest control operation was carried out at their home in Panch Dhara society, Versova (above). File Photo

On August 16, 2012, a committee formed to investigate the case was chaired by police surgeon SM Patil and included secretary, Dr Shailesh Mohite ,who is also head and professor of Forensics Medicine, Nair Medical college.

It instructed that Rameez Chougle’s body be exhumed almost two months after the burial and were disappointed by the lethargic attitude of police. Dr Mohite said the police did not reply to their queries in spite of receiving two reminders (between October 2012 and March 2013). Finally, the police answered only two out of 15 questions.

“The attitude of the police clearly indicates that either they are not very serious about the probe or are just killing time,” said a committee member on the condition of anonymity.

Dr Mohite added, “Rameez’s body was exhumed and the toxicology report from Forensic Science Laboratories (FSL), Kalina, confirmed that Rameez, like his sister Rehab, died after ingesting aluminum phospide -- how has the police not responded to the queries in spite of these findings?”

The police apathy does not end there -- they have failed to trace the accused, Salim, who according to the police, was an aide of the pest control contractor, Rukhsar Almelkar. Salim hadallegedly executed pest control operation at the Chougle residence.

Additionally, it was only on August 8, 2013 that the Maharashtra Council of Homeopathy Medicines (MCH) completed its hearing to ascertain whether homeopathic Dr Aslam Momin was authorised to issue death certificates to the siblings. The council will announce its final decision by the second week of September after considering Dr Momin’s and the police versions.

When asked for the reason for delay in the hearing, Dr Bahubali Shah, administrator of MCH, clarified that the police approached the council only two months after the incident and wanted to know if Dr Momin could issue a death certificate.

In the first hearing, only documents were exchanged and, by mid- February this year, the council was dissolved as its tenure had come to an end. Then, for over a month, the government did not appoint any administrator. It was only by end March that the appointment came through and an administrator took up the case once again.

The case
On July 3, 2012, a pest control operation was allegedly carried out at the siblings’ flat in Panch Dhara Society, Versova. A few hours later, Rameez started vomiting and was declared dead before he could be shifted to a hospital. A few hours later, Rehab too started vomiting and was shifted to the hospital. She died two days later. Rameez’s body was buried without conducting a postmortem. The death became mysterious after the FSL report suggested traces of aluminum phospide that was found in Rehab’s stomach.

The police arrested Rukhsar Almekar, the woman who was contracted by the Chougle family to conduct the pest control operation. Subsequently, the Borivli shopkeeper Hitendra Shah who supplied the chemicals and Pune-based chemical supplier PParikh were also arrested. All three were later released on bail.

In case of Rameez, a family doctor had certified his death as natural and his body was not sent for an autopsy. But later his corpse was also exhumed on September 20, and it was confirmed that even he had ingested aluminum phospide. The police officers did not ask the surgeon at Cooper Postmortem Centre forensics to preserve Rehab’s viscera for histopathology and chemical analysis findings. 

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