Sheena Bora murder: Cops ignored rigor mortis, say forensic experts

Sep 04, 2015, 09:05 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

Forensic experts are baffled by the Mumbai Police's contention that Sheena's body was stuffed into a suitcase, taken out to be put on the car seat and stuffed back into the bag before being set ablaze

In their version of how Sheena Bora’s body was disposed of by Indrani Mukerjea, Sanjeev Khanna and Shyam Rai, the Mumbai Police seem to have overlooked one important factor: The stiffness of death.

Also read: What happened to Sheena Bora's remains? The mystery deepens

Sheena Bora
Sheena Bora

In their written remand application made to the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (copy with mid-day) on August 31, 2015, the Khar police have stated that between 6.30 pm and 7.30 pm on April 24, 2012, Sheena was abducted from Bandra (West) and strangled to death in a car.

The spot, near Gagode Budruk village in Pen taluka, from where the remains of Sheena Bora were recovered. File picsThe spot, near Gagode Budruk village in Pen taluka, from where the remains of Sheena Bora were recovered. File pics

After this, her body was put in a suitcase and kept in the car, which was parked in a garage. The application goes on to say that early in the morning the next day — August 25, 2012 — the accused took out the dead body from the suitcase, put it in the back seat of the car and then made an over two-hour journey to Gagode Budruk village on the Pen-Khopoli highway.

Here, they once again put the body in the suitcase, doused it in petrol and set it ablaze. What has baffled forensic and legal experts is this: When rigor mortis begins to set in barely two hours after death, how and why would the three inexperienced killers stuff the body into a suitcase, take the stiff body out to put it on the seat and then — more than eight hours after the murder — stuff an even stiffer body back into the suitcase before setting it ablaze?

‘Highly unlikely’
A forensic surgeon from a medical college in the city told mid-day: “If the remand application details given by the police explain the manner in which the murder happened and the body was disposed of, then the entire claim seems highly unlikely, as the body would have started showing signs of rigor mortis within two hours of death.”

“Until rigor mortis had set in, it would have been possible to fold the body and put it in a suitcase. Hours after the murder, however, the entire body would have been stiff and it would have remained in the position in which it was kept in the suitcase. Removing the body and making it sit in the car after this would be extremely difficult, and it would require considerable force to overcome the rigor mortis,” he said.

“Since the garage was not air-conditioned and the crime took place in the month of April, when the climate is warm and humid, some degree of decomposition would have already started. Even a hardcore criminal would find it extremely inconvenient to sit with such a dead body in the seat of the car and travel to the crime scene, which, in this case, was more than two hours away.

Refolding the dead body and fitting it in the suitcase more than eight hours after the crime would have required considerable force, effort and time, which seems unlikely.”

Too risky
“Why would anyone take the risk of putting the body in the suitcase once again on reaching the spot (Pen-Khopoli road)? The spot is close to the state highway and by the time the accused would have reached the location, it would have been nearly daylight (the police have claimed getting to Gagode Budruk village from Mumbai takes over two hours from Mumbai and the accused left at 4 am),” said another surgeon.

Also read: Sheena Bora was strangled, her body burnt and dumped

He also asked that if the murder had taken place inside the car, where did the accused halt the car to put the body inside the suitcase, as it is nearly impossible to stuff the dead body in a suitcase in a moving

Did you know?
A post-mortem worker attached to a city mortuary said, “Usually, it is easier to lift a person who is alive than lifting a dead body and walking with it. Physiologically, nothing changes, but it’s a whole different ball game psychologically and the dead body seems heavier than it is.”

Recreating crime scene
“The police will have to consider the height and weight of the deceased before reconstructing the crime scene, and ensure that the subject (used for reconstruction) meets these parameters. The natural lighting should be the same (as it would have been in April 2012), as it is very crucial to corroborate the statement made in the remand application and clear the doubts scientifically and logically,” said a forensic surgeon.

Expert speak

Advocate Dinesh Tiwari, senior criminal lawyer
This claim by the police only raises serious doubt about the manner in which the murder was committed and the body disposed of by non-habitual offenders.

Rohini Salian, special public prosecutor for Maharashtra
On the face of it, this case looks very murky, but the question is who has given this information (mentioned in the remand application) to the police? Is it the accused? And if so, it is not admissible and the police will have to recreate the scene of crime and have independent witnesses corroborate it.

In case the police are relying on circumstantial evidence, they should connect every circumstance, which should form a chain, only then will the matter be watertight in court. Since the police have 90 days to file a chargesheet, they should consider all these loose ends before submitting it.

The forensic and scientific evidence is core in this case and the police should rely on these to establish the identity of the deceased. Once it is confirmed that the skeletal remains were that of Sheena Bora, the police have to connect the complicity of these accused to the crime.

DCP Dhananjay Kulkarni, Mumbai Police spokesperson
This (remand application) is a primary statement. I cannot comment further

Unanswered questions
Seeking further remand of the accused, the police had said in the application that they wanted clarity, and needed to act, on these aspects:

>> Why did the accused select the deserted spot in Pen for disposing the dead body? Is there anyone else is involved in the crime?

>> Where are the personal belongings of the deceased, including her mobile phone?

>> Identifying and recording the statement of people who were known to the accused within and outside Maharashtra 

>> Conducting a search of the offices of the accused

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