Mumbai, Jul 2: Kannada actress Maria Susairaj, who walked out of jail today after serving more than three years behind bars in Neeraj Grover murder case, claimed she is innocent and the conviction is a “stigma” on her life.
Her lawyer Sharif Sheikh, who was present alongside, said she would appeal against her conviction in a higher court.
“I know I am innocent and my god knows I am innocent,” Maria told a chaotic press conference marked by protests by a group of people led by film-maker Ashok Pandit.
Maria, who hardly spoke during the interaction with her lawyer addressing the media most of the time, said she was all sympathy for the family of TV executive Neeraj Grover but refused to comment on her relations with him.
“I desperately sympathise (with Neeraj's family) losing somebody. The whole scenario is sad,” she said.
On Neeraj's family blaming her for the crime, she said, “I don't want to say anything about him or his family.”
Even as most of what the struggling actress and her lawyer said got drowned in the din and cacophony, a glum-faced Maria admitted that she was still to come to terms with her new-found freedom and was undecided about her future.
“I am not going to decide anything for myself anymore. Let my family decide everything. I have put my past behind. I have not yet realised what is happening with me,” she said.
“There are tears in my eyes. I have not faced people for three years and now this pressure (protest). You can't expect people to be cool,” she said as Pandit and his supporters shouted “We want justice for Neeraj Grover” and “The killer should be hanged”.
Several of them walked menacingly to the table where Maria and her lawyer were seated and demanded “Let the killer speak”.
As the situation threatened to go out of control, Maria's lawyer Sheikh said those who did not want to hear what was being said at the media conference were free to leave the premises or the interaction will be called off abruptly.
Soon police was called in and the protesters were shown the door. Some of them were shoved out of the venue by media persons who said if they had to make a point they should hold a press conference.
Maria said in the three years and 41 days that she was in jail, she felt blessed “as I got closer to God. I did a lot of painting, prayer meets”.
Her lawyer Sheikh said as they were not satisfied with the verdict, they will file an appeal in the High Court.
“The police gave false information to the media about the victim's body being hacked into 300 pieces,” he said, showing a photograph of the remains of Neeraj's limbs.
On her complicity in the crime, Sheikh said, “She had gone to buy materials to dispose of Grover's body only because she was threatened by Jerome.”
When asked if she was still close to Jerome, who was awarded 10 years rigorous imprisonment in the case and still has to serve seven years, she replied in the negative.
“I am here with you. How can I be close to him,” she said. On whether they were still “just friends”, she shot back with a terse “no”.
Despite media's insistence, she refused to speak anything about the case, as advised by her lawyer. PTI