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BPO girl's killer gets life term, victim's father says it's 'too little, too late'

“The judgement does not mean much to me and my family,” said Lincoln Fernandes, father of 26-year-old Paloma, who was stabbed to death by her boyfriend on January 28, 2009 at her Mira Road residence. The killer, Aquino Martis, has now been sentenced to life imprisonment by Thane District and Sessions Court judge AA Sayeed.

 
Won’t give up: Lincoln Fernandes (left), Paloma’s father, says he will approach a higher court seeking harsher punishment for Aquino Fernandes

However, Lincoln says it is too little, too late and he will move to a higher court. The bereaved father observed that Aquino has already spent three years in jail and only faces 11 more behind bars. At the age of about 40, he would be out and about and live free thereafter, while his beloved daughter will never come back. Public prosecutor Sangeeta Phad, who was pleading the case, said, “I am happy with the judgement, which is based on accounts by independent witnesses and medical reports.” Lincoln, who resides in Goa, always came to Mumbai whenever there was a hearing. He is currently in the city with his family.

How it all began
Lincoln said he is relieved the judgement has finally come because he was expecting further delays, devised by Aquino’s lawyer. He then cast his mind back to 2005, when Paloma came to Mumbai and started working at a call centre in Malad. In June 2008, she shifted to a house in Mira Road. Aquino Martis occupied a flat in the building next to hers. Five months later the two were in love. “My wife Francisca and I were always opposed to this relationship. I spoke to Paloma many times about this, but, like youngsters are, she brushed aside my contentions and said she was old enough to make her own decisions. She was unhappy with me, as I opposed the relationship,” Lincoln recollected.

Blind in love
In December 2008 Paloma fell ill, so Lincoln came to Mumbai to help her. Even then he had asked his daughter to dump Aquino and said she would find a better boy. However, Paloma was unbending and her father returned to Goa. Speaking about the gruesome murder, Lincoln said, “Aquino aimed at my daughter’s heart. He stabbed her several times. He was sitting on the staircase waiting for Paloma the whole night. When my daughter got out of the car and entered the building, he attacked her brutally.”

That night
On January 28, 2009, Paloma, who worked with JP Morgan in Malad, got out of a car outside her Rashmi Hetal residence at Beverly Parks around 3.30 am. As soon as she had unlocked her room, Aquino, who was hiding by the first floor staircase, rushed down and pushed her inside the room. He stabbed the girl in the chest with a kitchen knife and then stabbed himself in the stomach. Building residents rushed the duo to a hospital but Paloma was declared dead. Aquino was shifted to Bhagwati Hospital in Borivli and later recovered. Neighbours said Aquino was unemployed and Paloma had recently withdrawn money from her account and given it to him. That was when Aquino learnt that the victim had a substantial sum in her account. Paloma found her ATM card missing a few days later and, as she suspected Aquino, she complained to her father – who suggested she block the card. This angered Aquino, police officials said. 

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