When I saw them on television in August 2015, I immediately remembered that Indrani Mukerjea, Sanjeey Khanna and Shyamvar Rai, were the same three people whom I had spotted in the wee hours of April 25, 2012 at Gagode Khind.
This is what Sandeep Patil, the only eyewitness in the Sheena Bora murder case, told the Central Bureau of Investigation in his statement.
Gagode Khind at Khopoli Pen road is the same spot where the police had exhumed the mortal remains of Sheena, allegedly murdered by her mother Indrani Mukerjea, with held from her driver and ex-husband. The prosecution is likely to heavily rely on Patil’s testimony.
In his statement to the CBI, Patil said he has been running a gym called Sandi Fitness Center at Mohopada village in Raigad district for five years. In the last week of August 2015, when he was at the gym, he saw the news about Sheena's murder play on television, and details about how her body was disposed.
The faces of the three accused and the location where the body was dumped three years ago, sounded familiar to him. He said he recalled that it was the same spot where they had alighted from the car (Chevrolet) and stood silently.
Patil said he had left his village Mohopada, to go to a nearby village of Tiruwali, to buy gym equipment. He had left home at 5 am on April 25, 2012 on his motorcycle (MH-06-Q-9854). Gagode Khind was on the way and it was here that he had spotted the trio.
Patil claimed he made up his mind to approach the police voluntarily and on September 9, 2015, he visited Khar police station and met police inspector Dinesh Kadam. He narrated the incident to Kadam and described the trio’s appearance.
The police officer asked him to visit the police station once again for a Test Identification Parade (TIP), which he did on September 23, 2015. “On reaching Khar police station, I was taken to Arthur Road jail, along with the Tehsildar, and panch witnesses.
I identified both male accused, who were seen by me on April 25. Thereafter I was taken to Byculla jail, where I identified the lady. Post the identification parade done, I learnt that the accused whom I had identified were Sanjeev Khanna and Shyamwar Rai and the statement recorded (sic).”
When Sunday mid-day called the mobile number (8888053xxx) listed in Patil’s statement as his own, the person who answered the call identified himself as Dinesh Purange, a resident of Kedupada village in Panvel. He said he had bought this number SIM two weeks ago.
Purange said, “Since I have bought this new prepaid SIM card, I have been constantly receiving phone calls for Sandeep; I do not know this person.”
What lawyers say
Advocate Shreyansh Mithare, who is representing Khanna in the case, said, “Sandeep’s testimony may be quite vital for the prosecution, as he is the only eyewitness to have spotted the three accused that morning.
However, the million dollar question is why then did he not approach the local Pen police after the sighting, as the local police had spotted the unclaimed dead body on May 2012 first.
Moreover, it cannot be ruled out that Sandeep is a tutored witness for prosecution, as he is able to recall each and every detail that transpired three years ago and hence, his testimony cannot be relied upon. We will puncture it during the trial.”
Another senior lawyer, Dinesh Tiwari said, “Though the investigating police officer recorded the statement of an eyewitness, during the trial, the court seldom believes such witnesses since it is highly improbable for someone to recall the place and scene of incident as there was nothing abnormal or in particular to be noted.
A person of ordinary prudence would not recall such an incident after a gap of two years, unless there was something shocking to be recalled. However, they are called in as witness since the prosecution has relied on their statements and claims.”
The Supreme Court of India has categorically stated that in sensational cases, if persons involved are prominent figures, exposed by the media to the public, a Test Identification Parade (TIP) is ‘meaningless’.
A division bench of Justice BS Chauhan and Justice V Goapala Gowada, passed the verdict on February 4, 2013, while upholding the life sentence in a case of murder, where accused R Shaji, was a former Deputy Superintendent of Police, at Malappuram in Kerala.