Eighteen-month-old Rudva Mhatre had been kidnapped by the accused from her home in Panvel taluka
Eighteen-month-old Rudva Mhatre had been kidnapped by the accused from her home in Panvel taluka

The Navi Mumbai police rescued an 18-month-old girl, who was kidnapped by a 19-year-old, in eight hours flat. The accused, who had demanded a ransom of Rs 50 lakh, was arrested by the Panvel taluka police.

Morning shock
According to the police, the victim, Rudva Mhatre, is a resident of Khairne gaon in Panvel taluka. Her grandfather Harichandra Mhatre, former sarpanch of the village, said the kidnapping took place between 12.30 am and 3.30 am on Monday. "She usually sleeps next to me; so when I woke up and didn't see her, I knew she was missing," said Harichandra, who stays in a joint family with his four sons. Around 6 am, when the accused made the ransom call, the family realised what had happened.

Navi Mumbai police commissioner Hemant Nagrale said, "The accused had fled with two SIM cards from two handsets belonging to the family. He had made the call from one of those numbers, demanding R50 lakh. The family approached us and registered a complaint at 6.30 am."

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The accused, identified as Hamidul Umedali Bensa from West Bengal, had worked for the Mhatres as a labourer for a short while last year.

"Bensa, who was familiar with the layout of their house, said he entered through the open hole of an exhaust fan, which was not installed, and left through from the main door," added Nagrale.

On his trail
"We had formed 19 teams for the search operation. We traced the location of the number from which he had called and found out that he was roaming in the vicinity itself. But as it was a kidnapping case, and we needed to rescue the child safely, we stayed away from the spot and sent one officer in plain clothes to keep an eye on him," said Nagrale.

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The police got lucky when a tribal, Bhagesh Waghmare (60), went to search for vegetables in the forest area. "Waghmare found the girl covered by a towel, bound and gagged. He informed the police, and the girl was rescued," said joint commissioner of police (Navi Mumbai) Prashant Burde.

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Assistant commissioner of police (Panvel) Prakash Nilewad said, "As soon as the girl was rescued, our plain-clothed officer took the accused in custody."

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"Investigation revealed that he's in a relationship with a girl in West Bengal, and that his father is unwell; he could have done this to get quick money for either of them. We suspect the involvement of a few more people in the case and are investigating," said M Shinde, senior inspector, Panvel taluka police station.