Nearly two months after the body of a 23-year-old software engineer was found in Mumbai, the police claimed to have worked out the case with the arrest of Nashik resident Chandrabhan Sanap.
The police said the primary motive seemed to be robbery but did not rule out sexual assault. “The victim put up a brave fight so the accused strangled her with her stole and fled with her belongings,” Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria said on Monday.
The accused has been charged with murder and destruction of evidence. Molestation charge could be invoked later.
The case hit the headlines after the girl’s family claimed that the police had not taken their complaint seriously. It also raised questions about Mumbai’s image as a safe city for women.
The victim had gone from here to her hometown, Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh, to celebrate Christmas in December last. She returned by train to Mumbai, but went missing from the Lokmanya Tilak Terminus at Kurla on January 5.
Her body was found off the Eastern Express Highway on January 16.
The case was solved with the help of CCTV footage and informers. At 4.55 a.m. on January 5, the victim was seen alighting on platform 3. By 5.11 a.m., she ran into Sanap between platforms 4 and 5. He was seen wheeling her bag, while she talked on her mobile phone. The two then moved towards the exit.
The police said Sanap, a history-sheeter, was drunk when he reached the station and planned to steal passengers’ luggage. Seeing the victim alone, he decided to target her.
The police say the accused convinced the victim into believing that he would drop her at her residence in the western suburbs on his motorbike for Rs. 300. “The accused exchanged his mobile and motorbike number to instil confidence in her,” Mr. Maria said.
He said the victim pretended to share these details with her relatives on her phone, though she had no talk time left.
The accused initially tried to sexually assault the girl, but killed her when she offered resistance, the police said. He returned to the spot with a friend to look for her phone but could not trace it because of fog. The friend, who owned the motorbike, is now a witness.
Police sources told The Hindu that the Government Railway Police had last month interrogated Sanap but were unable to solve the case. “The accused had grown a beard and changed his appearance.”
“The GRP was awaiting the call data record of the accused from the service provider but before they could get it, the Crime Branch picked him up. He admitted to the crime and led his interrogators to the victim’s luggage which he had stolen,” the sources said.