No one suspected anything amiss in a crowded neighbourhood in south Delhi’s Chhattarpur Pahari where a 28-year-old man allegedly strangulated his live-in partner inside their house, chopped her body into several parts using a saw, stored them in a refrigerator and disposed of them in the forest nearby over a period of three months.
For six months after the murder on May 18, the accused, Aftab Poonawala, continued to live in the same house where he and the victim, Shraddha Walkar, 26, had planned to start a new life together.
The crime came to light last week when the police interrogated the accused following a missing complaint filed by Shraddha’s father in Mumbai. On sustained questioning, Aftab allegedly confessed to killing Shraddha in a fit of rage after a quarrel over suspicion of an affair, the police said on Monday. The accused was arrested on the night of November 11 and remanded in five-day police custody the next day. The police have taken him to his house in Chhatarpur and the forest to recreate the sequence of events and have so far recovered 13 body parts, said an officer.
Both DCW and NCW have taken cognisance of the matter and have asked the Delhi police for an action-taken report.
Came from Mumbai
According to the police, Aftab and Shraddha had been dating since 2019 when they were working at a call centre in Mumbai. They met through an online dating app and soon started living together, which was disapproved of by their parents. The couple decided to shift to Delhi in May this year, the police said.
Additional DCP (South) Ankit Chauhan said before coming to Delhi the couple visited several hill stations in Himachal Pradesh. Ever since they started dating, the couple used to have frequent fights and suspected each other of infidelity, said the officer. “Three days after moving to Delhi on May 15, the couple had an argument again and in a fit of rage, Aftab strangulated Shraddha with his hands. He kept the body inside the Chattarpur flat for two days and then started to chop it into pieces using a saw he had kept in the house,” the Additional DCP said, adding that Aftab bought a fridge from a local shop to store the body parts.
Aftab did not dispose of several body parts in one go as he thought they might be discovered and may lead the police to him, said another officer. “He worked as a chef before joining the call centre in Mumbai and that is why he had the expertise in chopping... he cleaned up all the blood with acid and disinfectant to ensure that there were no bloodstains in the house. He mostly stayed inside his house and ordered food from outside, which he kept inside the same fridge,” the officer said.
“He knew that over time the flesh will start smelling, so he used room fresheners and incense sticks every day. He hatched a plan to dispose of the body parts in the nearby forest. He used to wrap the body parts in a plastic bag, put them inside a backpack and around 2 a.m., he used to walk to the forest and throw the packet,” said the officer.
The accused purportedly told the police that he used to watch the American crime series Dexter, which gave him an idea of how to dispose of body parts at the night. “The accused started working at a call centre in Gurugram two weeks after the incident. He even used to go to work at night after disposing of the body parts..,” an officer disclosed.
Mr. Aftab’s computer’s search history also showed that he had searched “how to clean blood marks and destroy evidence”, the police said.
Shraddha’s father lodged a missing report with the Mumbai police in October. The complaint was transferred to the Mehrauli police station in Delhi on November 8. The missing report was later converted into an FIR under IPC sections pertaining to kidnapping after police tracked Shraddha’s phone to the house in Chattarpur. On questioning Aftab, he initially claimed that Shraddha had left him but later allegedly admitted to committing the crime. Traces of blood and flesh were found in his refrigerator by a forensic team, based on which he was arrested.
While police didn’t give the exact number of pieces the body was chopped into, Mr. Chauhan said efforts are on to find all the remains and sniffer dogs are being used.
In the neighbourhood where Aftab lived, people never saw Shraddha, nor did they hear any cries or noise from the flat to suspect any criminal activity. Joginder Kaur, who lives next door, said: “We never saw the woman ever since they shifted here... Only the man used to come down sometimes to ask about water supply or to collect food ordered from outside.”
Another neighbour, Suman, said Aftab mostly kept to himself and was “well-mannered” when he spoke to them.