The spot where Darshini’s remains were found. Pics/Kaushal Dubey
In another suspected incident of man-animal conflict, a three-year-old girl was killed in Aarey Milk Colony on Monday. But while police are investigating if it could have been a leopard attack, locals suspect foul play. Over 200 locals held up traffic at Panchavati junction in Aarey late in the evening yesterday. They refused to collect the girl's remains from a hospital claiming she was murdered, and demanded a proper investigation into the incident. Police are waiting for the postmortem report which will mention the cause of death.
Darshini Mutthu Veli, a resident of unit 13 which is located on a hillock surrounded by a forested patch, went missing from near her house while returning from a neighbour's home on Monday night. A missing complaint was registered with Aarey police station. But her remains were found on Wednesday.
Darshini Mutthu Veli’s remains were found in Aarey Milk Colony
Searched for two days
Darshini had gone to her neighbour's house which is about 20 feet from her house. When she did not come home, her family approached the neighbours. "They told us that she had left their house to return home. We immediately started searching for her in the nearby forested patch along with local residents and police from Aarey Police Station," said her father, Mutthu Veli.
On Monday over 150 people searched the forested area on the hillock, but Darshini was not traceable, despite looking for more than two hours even the next day. On Wednesday morning the search continued and a team of researchers and volunteers who have been monitoring leopard activity were asked to join it.
Darshini’s father Mutthu Veli said when she did not return from their neighbour’s house, they approached them asking about her.
Wildlife researcher Rajesh Sanap, along with team member Kaushal Dubey and Imran Udat, began the search operation at 9.30 am on Wednesday, and at around 11.30 am, he was successful in locating part of the girl's torso. The police and the researchers later found the head followed by a leg and a hand. The police sent them to Siddharth Hospital for postmortem to know the exact cause of the death.
Foul play suspected
Mid-day also visited the area, and locals said that there are chances that the girl might have been killed, after which a wild animal must have eaten her.
"We want the police to do a proper investigation into the case from all angles, because though the body parts have been recovered, we have yet not found the shorts that she was wearing, along with the steel glass that was in her hand. There are chances that she might have been killed and later a wild animal might have consumed her body," said a local.
Chief Conservator of Forests, Thane Forest Department (Territorial), Sunil Limaye said, "We are waiting for the postmortem report to come as it will reveal the exact cause of death."
Deputy Conservator of Forests Jitendra Ramgaonkar also visited the location and interacted with the locals, and has asked them to see to it that small children are not let out of the house alone after dusk and before dawn.
Senior Police Inspector from Aarey Police Station, Vijay Oulkar, the DCP and ACP of the area, along with staff also visited the spot where the body parts were found.
2: No of days the search for the girl went on
Mistaken for monkey
Locals also told mid-day that there was a monkey that was kept as a pet in the neighbouring house, and they feel that if a man-animal conflict incident has happened, it might be because of the monkey. They feel the leopard might have come to pick up the monkey but mistakenly took the girl.