Are Sheena Bora's forensic samples missing again?
Forensic samples from Sheena Bora's remains -- collected by Pen police in 2012 and found at JJ Hospital recently -- seem to have disappeared a second time; cops, forensic agencies clueless
Forensic samples in the Sheena Bora murder case seem to have gone missing yet again. Just last month, Mumbai Police had launched a frenzied search for the evidence that had been collected by the Pen police after they came upon the burnt, decomposing body in May 2012.
Eventually, the remains were found at JJ Hospital and were supposed to be handed over to the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL). Now, however, no one — not Mumbai Police, Pen police or JJ Hospital or the FSL — has a clue as to where the samples have disappeared.
Sheena’s skeletal remains were exhumed from the site and tests confirmed a DNA match with her mother, Indrani Mukerjea. File pic
While the police later found the rest of Sheena’s remains at the crime scene in Pen, the lost samples still hold importance in the case as they had been collected first, just a month after Sheena was murdered. The Khar police were supposed to hand over the original samples to the FSL for re-testing, as JJ Hospital had not found any conclusive results.
So who has it?
However, an official at the Kalina lab confirmed to mid-day, “The police have not submitted any samples that they had collected from JJ Hospital pertaining to this case.
Our team had visited the crime scene at Pen and found the skeletal remains, and the DNA test matched with the blood samples of Sheena’s mother Indrani Mukerjea and brother Mikhail. The seized mobile phones and laptops are expected to be sent to the FSL for digital forensic analysis to retrieve any deleted files or folders.”
In an earlier report, Dr T P Lahane, dean of JJ Group of hospitals and Grant Medical College had told mid-day, “We had kept our report ready by December 2013, but only today the Khar police approached us asking for the samples to be given to them. As per the request, we have handed them over to the police.”
According to D P Bhargude, senior PI at Khar police station, however: “The samples were handed over to the Pen police, not the Khar police.” Superintendent of Raigad Police, Mohammed Suvez Haque told this paper, “I cannot comment on anything pertaining to the enquiry that was conducted as per the orders of my superiors. All relevant areas of lapses were covered during the enquiry and the report has been sent to the superiors.”
“The first sample is crucial for the case. During trial, the defence will try to prove that the subsequent sample was suspicious because when fresh samples could not yield DNA specifics, how could the degenerated three-year-old samples yield results.
The defence could ask to examine the first set of samples, and in case of a mismatch, will seek to crumble the prosecution’s case,” said IPS officer-turned-lawyer, Advocate Y P Singh, who also pointed out serious lapses in the way the samples were handled even in 2012, when the Pen police had sent them to the Anatomy department of JJ Hospital.
“As per the general instructions stated in the Maharashtra Medical Code, every sample that is sent needs to mention the crime registration number (FIR or accidental death report number), police station and preferably the outward number and date of dispatch.
Similar instructions have been specified in the Bombay Police Manual, which every officer is required to follow. In other words, no sample can be sent for examination by experts till the time the ADR or FIR number is mentioned,” he said.
When mid-day asked JJ’s dean Lahane whether the samples had been sent with these vital details, he said, “I will have to check, but roughly I remember that the Pen police covering letter did mention that it was a medico-legal case, and the covering letter also had some outward number. I will still check and revert about this.”
Singh said there was a need for the chief minister to call for a high-level probe into this issue, as it there were lapses not on the part of Raigad Police, but even Mumbai Police and officials at JJ Hospital. mid-day had earlier highlighted how the Pen police had not found any record of either an FIR or an ADR being registered.
In the enquiry that followed, sources said that an FIR had nearly been filed but the process was stopped by a senior cop. A senior forensic expert, who did not wish to be identified, said, “If the local police were already informed by some superior officer not to register an ADR or FIR in the case, why would the Pen police take the effort of sending sample seized for testing, violating the superior officer’s order? And even if they had sent the sample to JJ, why did the department accept the sample without the ADR or FIR number?”
The expert also pointed out that even though JJ Hospital had completed its report by December 2013, it was only last month that they revealed they had no conclusive findings as the tissue samples were inadequate. “Why was no communication made to Pen police immediately, calling for more samples or even exhumation?” he asked.