Mumbai: All eyes on FSL at Kalina in Sheena Bora murder case

Advanced superimposition technology on skull is outdated says Kalina scientist; will use fool-proof genetic analyser method

The Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) at Kalina is going to have a busy week.

Sheena Bora’s remains are to arrive at Kalina’s Forensic Science Laboratory
Sheena Bora’s remains are to arrive at Kalina’s Forensic Science Laboratory

The Mumbai police on Friday collected the charred human remains, believed to be 24-year-old Sheena Bora’s that were sent to JJ Hospital on May 25, 2012 by the Raigad police for examination. These were lying in the hospital’s anatomy department since.

In addition, FSL is also meant to receive a skull, femur bone and a few other tiny bones believed to be Bora’s that were recovered on Friday from the ravines of Pen by the Mumbai police during a search. Neither samples have reached Kalina or the anatomy department of Grant Medical College, said officials. They hope to receive the same by Monday.

FSL is optimistic of providing answers that can prove vital to cracking what is proving to be one of this year’s most baffling murder cases. FSL officials claim that even in the most challenging cases, including the INS Sindhurakshak explosion, they have been able to extract the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) from bones of deceased available to them. They hope to do the same with the samples they will received.

Since this is a high profile case, it is being considered top priority, which means that the 500 cases that FSL was currently handling will have to be put on hold for the moment.

In an interview to sunday mid-day on Saturday evening, Dr TP Lahane, dean of Grant Medical College and JJ Group of Hospitals, confirmed that they hadn’t received any remains from the police for examination.

“We cannot use the blood samples that the police have provided us of Indrani Mukerjea, her driver Shyam Rai and Sheena’s brother Mikhail Bora, unless we get the bone remains that have been exhumed by the police from the crime scene,” said a scientist from the DNA section of FSL.

According to forensics experts, the police, will first send the mortal remains to the department of anatomy for ascertaining the sex and age of the deceased and if possible, ascertain the cause of death. Once this analysis is completed, the remains will then be handed over to the police, who will submit the same to FSL for a DNA examination.

However, Dr Lahane believes that the police if they wish, can altogether skip sending the bones to JJ and opt directly for a DNA examination at FSL.

A scientist at FSL, requesting anonymity, clarified that unlike what has been reported in some papers, they no longer use advanced superimposition technology on skulls to recreate the face of the deceased. It is an outdated technique with an accuracy rate of 50 to 70 per cent. A DNA examination, on the other hand, provides fool-proof results.

FSL had received 1,800 cases (minimum 5 samples in each case) in the year 2014, and 1,200 cases this year until August. In nearly 85 per cent of these cases, the analysis has been proven accurate.

“In this case, we are confident that within a week’s time of receiving the samples, we will be able to submit our report to the police,” the scientist said.

The last 24 hours
>> On Saturday, Mumbai police recovered the car used in the murder of Sheena Bora in April 2012, where she was allegedly strangulated by mother Indrani Mukerjea and her ex-husband Sanjeev Khanna.
>> Main accused in the case, Indrani was taken to Khar police station for further interrogation on Saturday. It was reported that when she was confronted with her son Mikhail on Friday night, she got agitated, claiming that he was trying to extort money from her.
>> During a face-to-face interaction with Indrani on Friday night, Rahul Mukerjea (Peter Mukerjea’s son from his first wife), who was allegedly engaged to Sheena Bora was asked by the police about any possible links Peter had to the murder. Rahul allegedly responded, “Why don’t you ask her (Indrani Mukerjea)?”
>> On Saturday, Indrani told the police that she did call Sheena but met her over a cup of coffee for an hour on April 24, 2012. The next day, Sheena left for the US. When confronted with the fact that Sheena’s passport was with Rahul, Indrani said Sheena had made another passport. According to Indrani, Mikhail or Rahul could have killed Sheena.
>> Police also indicated that Sheena may have played a role in an alleged illicit financial transaction carried out by Indrani and Peter.
>> Khanna claimed he was not in the car when Indrani murdered Sheena. In his statement to the police, he said he came to Mumbai on April 24, after getting a call from Indrani. Khanna said he stopped Indrani from killing Mikhail. He was only involved in disposing Sheena’s body. “I got involved because Indrani told me that if Sheena would get married to Rahul, Vidhie’s [his daughter, who was later adopted by Peter] life would be ruined since there will be more people who can claim share to property.”
>> On police’s demand, Peter submitted his and Vidhie’s passports. The police, however, on Saturday rejected Peter’s written statement which he had given on Friday. He is likely to be questioned and confronted with all three accused.

How DNA is extracted

The bone remains found at Pen by the police on Friday, will be cleaned using chemicals and then dried. The bones, including the skull, will be powdered. The bone powder will once again be processed using chemical methods, and finally the DNA will be extracted from the aggregates of the bone powder. The extracted DNA will be amplified using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology. The amplified DNA will then be analysed using the genetic analyser method, which is used to determine paternity, maternity, relationship between siblings and other kinships. The samplings in each case are unique and never matches another’s except in the case of twins.

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