Kelwa beach burials: Cops won't let another corpse turn into a dead end

Oct 06, 2017, 11:19 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

After a skeleton is discovered on the beach, cops go to great lengths to identify the deceased; DNA testing and facial reconstruction are the next steps

In the past, when corpses turned up on the beach, the Kelwa police had been known to quietly bury the bodies, bringing the investigation to a dead end. This time, though, the cops are finally doing it right.

Cops dig out the skeletal remains and carry out a panchnama at Kelwa beach, where locals had spotted the bones sticking out of the ground
Cops dig out the skeletal remains and carry out a panchnama at Kelwa beach, where locals had spotted the bones sticking out of the ground

Locals spotted a skeleton sticking out of the ground at Kelwa beach on August 30. They suspected the bones were buried there and were uncovered by the heavy rains and deluge on August 29. This time round, instead of burying the remains on the sea front, the police followed the rule book – they sealed off the area, took photographs, summoned a local medical officer, conducted panchnama in the presence of revenue officials, and alerted senior police officers.

Serious effort
Interestingly, this time, the police took the extra effort of sending all the remains to the department of forensic medicine and toxicology at the Topiwala Medical College and BYL Nair Hospital in Mumbai. This was not the practice before, but is an initiative taken by Superintendent of Police (Palghar district) Manjunath Singe, and the newly posted in-charge of Kelwa Sagari police station, API Siddhawa Jaybhaye, who are keen to identify the body and ascertain the cause of death.

Speaking to mid-day, API Jaybhaye said, "Our jurisdiction covers nearly 24 km of the shore. Locals found some bones (ribs and vertebrae) popping out of the soil near the shore. My team and I visited the location and exhumed the remains, as per protocol."

"We were keen to establish the identity of the deceased, but could not find any clothes or belongings that could be linked to the remains. As per the directives of superiors, it was decided to seek forensic assistance," added Jaybhaye, who was earlier attached to the state CID in Pune.

Instead of registering the case under Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the police could only make a station dairy entry in this case, as there was no tissue on the skeletal remains.

Also read - Kelwa Beach Burials: Cops find skull fragment, autopsy reports 'questionable'

Buried history
As mid-day has reported earlier, in past instances where bodies were found on the beach, the cops would conduct a spot post-mortem and then bury the remains right there. This is what happened on July 11, 2014, when a body washed up at the beach. The body was suspected to be that of missing Dahisar resident, Nasim Shaikh, but because of the botched investigation, the body's identity was never established.

Jaybhaye was summoned by the Bombay High Court on September 4, in connection with the Nasim Shaikh case. Since taking charge three months ago, API Jaybhaye has grown concerned about the number of unclaimed and unidentified bodies turning up on the shore, and has been keen to follow the rulebook while handling such bodies.

Facial reconstruction?
"Our need of the hour is to mortuaries in and around the jurisdiction, so that such unidentified bodies can be preserved for a longer time and we can avoid burials on the sea shore," said the cop.

Also read: Is man buried in hurry at Kelwa beach missing Dahisar youth?

Post-mortem of the autopsy

A team of forensic surgeons, headed by Dr Shailesh Mohite, professor and head of the department at Nair hospital, examined the skeletal remains. "We received samples on September 4, and submitted the report to the police on September 27. All the major bones like skull, pelvis, extremities, few ribs and vertebrates were intact. We could establish that the deceased was a female, in the age group of 21 to 25 years," said Dr Mohite.

He added, "There were no fractures, no cuts, no puncture wounds on the remains we examined. This indicates that it might be either a case of drowning, or any other asphyxia death, like strangulation, suffocation, etc. We suspect that the death might have happened three to five years ago and could not ascertain the cause of death."

Dr Mohite further said, "We have sent two long bones from the lower extremities for DNA analysis and for detection of any poisoning to rule out homicidal death. Also, we have suggested to the police to go for super imposition and facial reconstruction."

Also read: Is man buried in hurry at Kelwa beach missing Dahisar youth?

Post-mortem of the autopsy

Cop speak
SP Singe said, "It is on the principal of natural justice that we decided to send the skeletal remains for forensic analysis, to make some headway in identifying the deceased. Forensic experts at Nair hospital have submitted a detailed report and we are impressed by their findings."

He added, "As these are female remains, we intend to go to the depth of the case to identify her. We will preserve the remains and will also go for super imposition and facial reconstruction to get more clues."

When asked if this will be standard practice in case of all decomposed/skeletal remains found on the shore, SP Singe said, "We have taken up this particular case as a challenge, and are doing everything possible to establish the deceased's identity. Similar exercises will be carried out on a case-to-case basis, as such things take a lot of time and effort."

Meanwhile, API Siddhawa added, "We are sending the samples to the forensic lab in Kalina, and are also looking for missing complaints lodged in the last five years."

The victim
>> Woman, 21 to 25 years old
>> Around 154 to 155 cm in height
>> Had only 31 teeth, not 32
>> Died 3-5 years ago
>> Cause of death likely to be asphyxia

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