Pen: While the Mumbai Police has been scrambling all over the country to connect the dots in the Sheena Bora murder case, which seems to be taking new twists every hour, shoddy investigation by the Pen police — which had been alerted about the burnt, decomposing body in a suitcase in 2012 — may prove to be a major pain point for their Mumbai counterparts.
Patil and his friends had found the charred body near this spot. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
Though Indrani Mukerjea, her ex-husband Sanjeev Khanna and driver, Shyam Rai, who are believed to be the main accused in the murder, have been held, the Mumbai Police may have trouble proving the case in court because the Pen police have allegedly not kept any records of Sheena Bora’s body, which had been found in a village in Raigad in May 2012. The records would have proved to be key evidence to nail the accused.
The edge of the cliff, near which the body, stuffed in a suitcase, had been doused in petrol and burnt, is about 50 feet from this road. The area is infamous as a dumping spot for bodies and a police officer said nearly 15 bodies had been found in 2012 alone — the year Sheena’s body was found
Not only did the Pen police allegedly not file any case whatsoever — not even an Accidental Death Report (ADR) — at the time, which has raised suspicions and prompted a departmental inquiry, the Police Patil who had been one of the first responders, is now dead, making recreating the murder scene and gathering evidence difficult. In rural regions, civilians are appointed as Police Patils to act as go-betweens for the police and the common people.
On the record, senior officials from Pen were mum on whether the remains of the body had been preserved and were also unable to divulge details of the investigations that followed after the body was recovered near Gagode Budruk Village in Pen taluka in Raigad district.
Senior Inspector Ashok Jagdale of the Pen police remained tightlipped on the matter. When mid-day visited Jagdale at his office, he refused to speak, while Raigad Superintendent of Police Suvez Haque said, “Only Joint Commissioner (Law and order) Deven Bharti sir will speak in the matter. Only he can provide any details.”
Off the record, sources from the Pen police, told mid-day that no records had been maintained and no case had been registered in 2012. That was the reason why the Mumbai Police were unable to dig out any information on Sheena’s body even till late last evening. When mid-day spoke to Bharti, he said, “We are still checking for records.”
When mid-day visited spot in Gagode Budruk village where Sheena’s body was dumped by the three accused, villagers said they had found the body in a decomposed and burnt state.
The fact that no murder case was registered despite this evidence and not even an ADR was filed raises suspicions on whether the Pen police had deliberately tried to hide evidence. Senior officials said a departmental inquiry has been initiated against cops from the Pen police station and action will be taken.
On May 23, 2012, Sheena’s body was found from a khindi (valley) spot of Gagode Budruk Village in Pen, which is 100 km from Mumbai on the Pen-Khopoli road. The police officials and locals said that the spot where the body is found is infamous because bodies are dumped there regularly.
A police officer said, “Even in 2012, when Sheena’s body was found, we had found 10 to 15 bodies from that area,” said a police officer. Prasad Patil, one of the villagers who had found Sheena’s body, said, “On May 23, several friends and I had gone to pick mangoes from a tree in the area.
There was a foul smell in the area and we suspected it was the stink of a decomposing body, especially since that was not the first time a body was found there. When news of this spread, half our village gathered there.” The villagers informed the Police Patil, named Santosh Parshuram Patil, of Gagode Budruk.
He informed the local police, who came to the spot. Another villager, Amit Shelar, said, “The body was decomposing in a suitcase and the area surrounding the suitcase was partially burnt.”
A police officer said, “When the police team had reached the spot, only the fingers were peeking out of the suitcase. There was nail paint on the fingers and they could make out it was the body of a woman. When the suitcase was opened, they realised that the body had been there for a month or so going by how much it had decomposed.”
The current Police Patil, Dhamri Dhoodhuskar, said, “I still remember that the burnt and decomposing body of the woman was found near the mango tree. However, only the then Police Patil would know what was done further or whether any records were kept, but he died two years ago, so no one knows.”
Villager Prasad Patil added, “Several things in the area surrounding the suitcase were also burnt. Small plants were charred, indicating that a lot of petrol had been put on the body. The suitcase was also nearly charred.
The accused may have thought that after the body and suitcase had burned, whatever remained would be washed away off the edge of the cliff nearby and into the 50-foot deep valley, but luckily that did not happen.”