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Woman who stole baby from Haji Ali dargah arrested while fleeing Mumbai

A 40-year-old woman has been arrested for stealing a four-month-old infant of a hawker from the Haji Ali Junction. According to the police, she was nabbed with the help of information given by a taxi driver, and CCTV footage from the cameras installed at Haji Ali junction.

Shabnam Sheikh
The accused, Shabnam Sheikh (40), is a resident of Lucknow

On Thursday afternoon, Manisha Somnath Sanap alias Aafreen Khan (23), who sells tamarind outside the Haji Ali dargah, realised that her four-month-old daughter, Babu, was missing. “She had kept the baby behind her while she was selling tamarind and candies,” said Sunil Mane, police sub-inspector (PSI) at Gamdevi police station.


The entrance to the subway at Haji Ali junction, where the accused was captured on CCTV cameras

As she panicked and raised a hue and cry, the police reached the spot. “We made some enquiries from passers-by and locals. We also asked questions to the vendors and taxi drivers who operate from the nearby taxi stand,” explained Pradeep Lonadkar, senior police inspector, Gamdevi police station.


The baby with her mother. Pics/Satyajit Desai

One of the taxi drivers, Umakant Patel (26), told the police that he had dropped a lady in her late forties, who also had a baby with her, at Byculla railway station. “When the taxi dropped the woman at Byculla station, she told the driver that she didn’t have money to pay him. She also told the driver that she was headed to Lucknow. In order to avoid arguments, the taxi driver returned without collecting any fare,” said Mane.

Prompt action
Armed with this information, the police were quick to act and obtained CCTV footage from the cameras installed at the Haji Ali junction subway. Immediately, six teams from the Gamdevi police station were dispatched to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), Bandra Terminus, Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT) and Kalyan Junction to find the woman.

On Friday morning, at LTT, one of the teams intercepted a lady with a baby in her hand. She matched the descriptions given by the taxi driver and the images seen on the CCTV footage. “We interrogated her, but she gave vague answers. Finally, we asked the mother to come to the spot, who identified the child immediately. We arrested the woman for kidnapping the child,” said PSI Mane.

The accused has been identified as Shabnam Shaikh (40), a resident of Lucknow. She told the police that she had been married twice, but was yet to bear any children. But according to the police, she might have a past record of committing such crimes. “She steals babies and sells them in other states. These children are then forced into begging or adoption,” said Mane. The accused was produced in court yesterday, and has been remanded in judicial custody till September 28.

How the accused was nabbed
The police got their first piece of information from the cabbie who had dropped the accused, with a baby, at Byculla station. He also told them that the woman might be on her way to Lucknow, as she had told him
The police then collected footage from the CCTV cameras at the Haji Ali subway and identified the woman with a baby
Six teams of policemen were sent to CST, Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT), Bandra Terminus and Kalyan Junction. The woman was intercepted at LTT
Police called the mother, who identified her missing child immediately 

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