Mumbai, Aug 24 (IANS) It’s been a year since the sensational Sheena Bora murder case burst on the national scene straight out of an Agatha Christie thriller. While much has been said and speculated about why the young woman was killed by her mother — once a top media honcho — the motive behind the gruesome act remains unclear, leaving investigators perplexed.
It was on the cool, rainy evening of August 25, 2015, when the Mumbai police swooped on former high-profile media baroness Indrani Mukerjea — the wife of ex-media tycoon Peter Mukerjea — and arrested her in connection with the killing of her 24-year-old daughter Sheena.
An executive working with Mumbai Metro One Pvt. Ltd, Sheena had suddenly gone missing on April 24, 2012, but Indrani claimed she had moved abroad for studies, and the matter was forgotten.
It was only after Indrani’s ex-driver Shyamvar Pinturam Rai — who was arrested three days before her on August 21, 2015 — spilled the beans on the three-year-old crime that the entire sordid saga, resembling a torrid teleserial, tumbled out, shocking the country.
Immediately after Indrani’s arrest, her former husband Sanjeev Khanna was arrested from Kolkata. Almost three months later, on November 19, 2015, even her current husband Peter Mukerjea was nabbed in the case.
After alleged delays on the part of Mumbai police in probing the matter, the Maharashtra government handed over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
A year into the investigations, the sleuths are yet to zero in on the exact motive behind Sheena’s murder — though various angles are being probed, including financial deals and possible money-laundering.
Shocking details unearthed during the probe into the high-profile case left the entire nation dumbfounded.
Born out of Indrani’s earlier relationship with Siddhartha Das in Shillong, Sheena and her brother Mikhail were virtually abandoned by their mother and raised by their grandparents in Guwahati and later Kolkata.
In fact, till a couple of days after her arrest, Indrani — who had since married twice — had passed off Sheena as her “younger sister” for reasons still unclear.
On April 24, 2012, Sheena took leave from her company, emailed her resignation and even “broke up” with her boyfriend Rahul Mukerjea — who was actually her step-brother, as it later emerged. Indrani subsequently informed the family that Sheena had left for the US to pursue higher studies.
No “missing person” report was lodged, though Sheena was never seen after April 24 that year.
Vaguely suspecting something was amiss, her brother Mikhail questioned Indrani why Sheena had suddenly left for the US without any intimation, and later claimed his mother was even conspiring to eliminate him.
Incidentally, perhaps unknown to Indrani, she was under police surveillance after a tip-off that she could be involved in Sheena’s disappearance — and the subsequent arrest of Rai in a weapons case proved a clincher.
It was Rai’s statement and detailed investigations which brought out the stunning truth — how Sheena was kidnapped, drugged, killed, her body burnt and disposed off in a suitcase in the forests of Raigad, around 95 kms south of Mumbai.
According to police investigations, that fateful evening, Khanna flew to Mumbai and lived at Hotel Hilltop in Worli. Indrani hired a car, picked up Khanna and asked the reluctant Sheena to meet her at Linking Road in Bandra where Mikhail had dropped her.
During the drive, Sheena was allegedly strangled by Khanna and her body was taken to Indrani’s Worli home where they put it in a large bag and stuffed it in the vehicle’s trunk.
That same night, they drove off from Worli to Gagode village in Raigad, with Sheena’s body propped between Indrani and Khanna to avoid police suspicion at checkposts.
At a pre-recced, isolated spot in the thick forests, they dragged out Sheena’s body, again stuffed it into the bag, poured petrol and set it ablaze in the early hours of April 26. They then dumped the burnt bag with the body in some thick bushes and returned to Mumbai.
It was only on May 23, 2012, when local villagers complained of a foul smell emanating from a particular spot in the forests that the Raigad police found Sheena’s body, but it was not properly recorded till more than three years till August 2015. That police lapse was subject of a separate probe.
Later in 2015, the police took Indrani, Khanna and Rai to the spot from where Sheena’s skeletal remains were retrieved and sent to Sir J.J. Hospital where a series of forensic and DNA tests helped establish the victim’s identity.
Nearly a year after the four prime accused — Indrani, Khanna, Mukerjea and Rai — were taken into custody, a ray of hope came for the investigators in the form of the driver (Rai) who bargained for a pardon in return for turning approver.
A Special CBI Court granted his plea and, on June 20, Rai was made an approver.
His recorded statement of November 16, 2015, lifted the curtain on actually how he (Rai) had gagged Sheena, Khanna held her hands and hair while Indrani pinned down her daughter and strangled her to death.
Little must have Indrani and her accomplices expected that a low-paid family retainer like Rai could pave the way for their nemesis and walk away with a pardon in the tragic drama.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at [email protected])