The horrendous murder of a lively 26-year-old woman, Shraddha Walkar by her live-in partner 28-year-old Aftaab Ameen Poonawala has shocked the nation.
The killer, after strangulating her in May this year in a fit of rage, kept her body in a newly bought refrigerator, cut the body into 35 pieces with an electric saw and scattered them for over 18 days in the Meharauli forest area of South Delhi. He was arrested six months later by Delhi Police on November 11, after Mumbai Police alerted their counterparts about the missing woman.
Already, chilling details are emerging about how Aftaab chopped her body into pieces and fed them to stray dogs in the forest area at midnight.
On Tuesday morning, Aftaab was taken by Delhi Police to the forest to hunt for the pieces thrown by him. So far, nearly 10 samples of remains suspected to be of a human being have been recovered, picked up forensic experts and are being sent for DNA test to match with the samples of Shraddha's father. The search will continue to recover other parts of her body.
Police say, Aftaab strangled her to death on May 18, but their common friend Laxman Nadar claimed, he had chatted with Shraddha on WhatsApp in July. Nadar said, Shraddha had then requested him to save her and expressed fear that Aftaab could kill her. Delhi Police is trying to join the loose ends in the investigation.
The killer had watched several crime movies including the American crime series Dexter to learn how to dispose of bodies. He had also learnt ways of removing bloodstains through Google. When police arrested him, Aftaab said "Yes, I killed her." Police is now hunting for the electric saw used for chopping the dead body.
Police sources said, after sitting on Shraddha's chest and strangling her to death, Aftaab put the lifeless body inside the washroom, and then started searching ways of disposing the body by surfing internet. The next day, he purchased an electric mini-saw and chopped the body into 35 parts. He threw his and Shraddha's blood-stained clothes in the garbage collection van, and hid the remains inside the cupboards of his kitchen and inside the fridge.
Aftaab was a food blogger as he had undergone training as a chef. He bought sulphur hypochlorite solution from a shop and washed the floor to remove all blood samples. He took two days to dismember the body into 35 parts. For three months, he updated Shraddha's social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram to evade suspicions, since she was very much active on social media. He chatted with her friends on social media, posing as Shraddha, till June 9.
Aftaab told investigators he had thrown Shraddha's cellphone somewhere in Maharashtra. Police are now trying to find out the missing cellphone to check the last call details and locations. He also told police that within 15 to 20 days of the murder, he struck friendship with another girl on Bumble dating app and even brought her to his flat. Aftaab used Shraddha's Instagram account till June to show that she was alive and well.
Shraddha's father Vikas Walkar has demanded death penalty for the killer. "I think this seems to be a case of love jihad. My appeal is: please hang Aftab."
The live-in couple had come to Delhi from Mumbai on May 8. They first stayed in a Paharganj hotel and later hunted for a flat in South Delhi. A property dealer Badri helped them in renting a flat in Chhatarpur Pahadi. This flat was close to the Mehrauli forest area. Ten days later, on May 18, Shraddha was strangulated to death. Police have detained Badri, the property dealer, who rented out the flat to Aftaab. He is being questioned.
Both Shraddha and Aftaab lived in Mumbai's Vasai (West). Shraddha studied in a convent school, studied Bachelor of Mass Media in a private institute, worked as a customer sales representative, sales manager in a retail sports shop and a team leader in an IT commerce firm.
Aftaab studied in an SSC school in Vasai, studied Bachelor of Management Studies and then went to Pune to do business. They met on a dating app Bumble in 2019, and despite objections from parents, started a live-in relationship. In 2020, Shraddha came to her home after her mother died, but left after two weeks to live with Aftaab.
Aaftaab, a trained chef, was a food blogger and he also took up graphic design assignments. Their relationship soured after Shraddha pressurized her to marry. The live-in couple visited hill stations in north India in March and April, and then shifted to Delhi, when they rented a flat in Chhattarpur Pahadi.
The murder would have remained under wraps had not Laxman Nadar, a former classmate of Shraddha phoned her brother to say that she was not contactable for the last two and a half months.
On October 6, Shraddha's father filed a missing application before the DCP of Vasai. Mumbai police found that her phone was unreachable, there were no withdrawals from her bank accounts since May, and her last location was traced to Delhi's Chhattarpur Pahadi. Delhi Police was contacted. Aftaab was questioned by Mumbai police, but he said Shraddha had left the flat since May after a quarrel. On November 10, a joint team of Mumbai and Delhi police detained Aftaab for questioning, and he confessed to the gruesome murder.
Shraddha used to post her pictures on Facebook, and her family members were satisfied that she was well, but five months ago, she suddenly became inactive.
The killer told investigators that he first strangulated Shraddha in a fit of rage, ordered food from Zomato, had his dinner, even as the lifeless body was lying in the flat. To stop the stench from emanating, he bought a big refrigerator, chopped the body into 35 pieces and put them in the fridge.
For 18 days, he used to take out two pieces each and go at around 2 am in the night to throw them in the forest. Aftaab used to order food daily to his flat, calmly had his lunch and dinner, and used to burn incense sticks and room fresheners to prevent the stench from emanating. He did this to prevent suspicion on part of the neighbours. Aftaab never made any attempt to flee because he felt safe under the assumption that his act will never come to light, as he had removed all evidences.
This gruesome murder raises serious questions. A girl leaves her family after falling in love with a man, stayed in a live-in relationship with him, and, because of a quarrel, she was strangulated to death and her body were chopped to pieces.
Questions are being asked about the upbringing (sanskar) that Aftaab had, which made him to chop the body of his beloved to pieces.
One: How could it be that an educated 28-year-old man, trained as a chef, working as a food blogger, have the gumption to kill his live-in partner in this gruesome manner? His fingers didn't tremble when he was using the electric saw to chop off the body parts.
Two: the fear of law appears to have vanished from the minds of some people. It is a sad fact that people accused of gangrape and murder, get released from jail. Either they do not get the death sentence, and even if they get the death penalty or life imprisonment, it is either commuted or pardoned.
For the families of victims, it takes years and millions of rupees to fight the battle in courts, and most of the people lose courage. The trial is so lengthy that even the courageous lose patience. The criminals have so many options to save themselves from the hangman's noose. The means of punishment are now limited. Those who murder people, do not have any fear of the death penalty.
One must ponder over the entire legal system, instead of thinking over parts of the problem. One must think how to speed up the police investigation and the legal process. The aim must be to strike at the mindset of criminals. The fear of death must strike at the hearts of the criminals. If this process is delayed, there could be some other Shraddha, who may be killed in a similar gruesome manner by the likes of Aftaab.
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