The police suspect that he travelled with her but in an adjoining compartment

A close friend of the 23-year-old software engineer from Andhra Pradesh, whose semi-decomposed body was found in a swamp off the Eastern Express Highway on January 16, has been detained by the Mumbai police in connection with her murder. The police suspect it to be a case of a love affair gone awry.

In December last year, the victim, who hailed from Machilipatnam in Krishna district, had gone to her hometown to celebrate Christmas with her family. She took a train back to Mumbai on January 4 but went missing on January 5.

The Call Data Record (CDR) of the suspect shows that his phone was out of range on January 4 and 5, the days when the victim undertook her journey back to Mumbai.

Also the suspect spoke to her for 35 minutes during the course of her journey and for around 39 hours in the last 20 days before she went missing. The police suspect that he travelled with her but in an adjoining compartment.

“His behaviour has been suspicious from day 1 but he always gave an alibi and evaded interrogation by us. We studied his CDR and it shows that he switched off his phone on the 4th and 5th and it was switched on only on the 7th and tracked to Karnataka,” Superintendent of Police, Government Railway Police, Vijayawada, Ch Syam Prasad told The Hindu.

“Fellow passengers told us that the victim was on her phone almost throughout her journey and even refused to seek help to be dropped home in the early hours of January 5, added Mr. Prasad.

Her train reached the Lokmanaya Tilak Terminus in Mumbai at 4.55 a.m. on January 5. It is fairly secluded in the early morning hours, and the victim was not even familiar with the topography of LTT. On earlier occasions she travelled by trains that reached in the afternoon and halted on the western railway line closer to the place where she stayed in Mumbai, the police said.

“She did not even inform her relative, who stays only 10 km away from LTT, to pick her up. We suspect that she did this at the behest of her friend who enjoyed her confidence and she was following his instructions,” sources told The Hindu.

Even the CCTV footage procured by the GRP of Mumbai on Thursday supports this theory.

In the footage taken at 4.55 a.m. on January 5, the victim is seen alighting on platform number 3, but instead of walking straight to the exit she is seen taking a turn and walking towards the common waiting room looking for someone. Minutes later, she is seen between platform number 4 and 5. At this spot she meets a person who is later seen wheeling her trolley bag for around 15 feet. All along, the victim is talking to someone on a mobile phone, while the other person is carrying her bag and both are moving towards the exit gate.

This person seen in the footage, whose identity is yet to be ascertained, is between 38 and 42 years, well built, bald and has a moustache.

“We suspect that this person seen in the footage might have been hired by the suspect to get her to a certain location,” added Mr. Prasad.

The police claim the behaviour of the suspect is inconsistent and raises a lot of suspicion.