A month-and-a-half after 27-year-old Kirti Vyas went missing from near her home in south Mumbai, police have arrested two of her colleagues at celebrity salon chain BBlunt on charges of murdering her and disposing of the body. Investigators zeroed in on Siddhesh Tamhankar (28) and Khushi Sahjwani (42) after the DNA from two drops of blood found in the boot of Sahjwani’s car matched Vyas’s DNA.
Vyas was last seen on March 16 morning in Sahjwani’s Ford EcoSport after Sahjwani and Tamhankar picked her up from outside her home in Bharat Nagar, Grant Road, and allegedly offered to drop her to work. Vyas was a finance manager at BBlunt’s Andheri (West) branch. Tamhankar was Vyas’s junior in the same department, while Sahjwani was a trainer in another department.
A case of murder and destruction of evidence among other sections of the Indian Penal Code was registered against Sahjwani and Tamhankar at the DB Marg police station on Friday night. The accused were produced before a court on Saturday, which remanded them in police custody until May 11.
As Vyas, a patient of type-2 diabetes, left home for work on the day of her disappearance, she found Sahjwani and Tamhankar waiting in Sahjwani’s car near her building. She got in with them, but did not reach office, and her phone remained switched off. A missing person complaint was registered after her sister Shefali approached the DB Marg police station. On April 5, the case was handed over to the Crime Branch.
“Tamhankar and Sahjwani were the last two people seen with Kirti. The Crime Branch had sent the Ford EcoSport vehicle in which the duo had picked up Kirti to the Kalina Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) in Mumbai. They found blood samples in the boot of the vehicle,” prosecutor Rajendra Suryavanshi argued before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate R S Aradhye on Saturday.
“On comparing it with the DNA of Kirti’s parents, the report said the blood samples in the four-wheeler were that of the biological female offspring of Kirti’s parents,” Suryavanshi said. “After it was thus established that the blood sample belonged to Kirti, the Crime Branch have placed the duo under arrest.”
Suryavanshi argued that Vyas was unhappy with Tamhankar’s work and had issued him a memo asking him to pull up his socks or face the consequences. Said an investigator, “Vyas was very particular about her work and did not like it when people did not do their job. Nearly 15 days back she had given a memo to Tamhankar to improve his work and had given him a deadline of March 16 till when to improve the quality of his work. It was the same day that she went missing.”
The working theory of the police is that Tamhankar and Sahjwani had picked up Vyas with the intention to murder her. They suspect she was strangulated at an isolated spot, and the body was left in the car’s boot before being disposed of. “Many things are, however, unclear. Their interrogation should help us get more clarity,” an officer said.
Sources close to the investigation said they had CCTV footage that showed Tamhankar, a resident of Parel, and Sahjwani, who lived in Santacruz, waiting in the car for 40 minutes near Vyas’s residence. “When we asked them why they were waiting for so long near her building, the duo did not have a satisfactory answer,” said an officer.
He added, “The main thing that they have to explain is, how did Kirti’s blood land up in the boot of Sahjwani’s car?” Officers said Tamhankar and Sahjwani had claimed that Vyas had asked them to drop her to Grant Road station, so she could take a train to office as usual.
Tamhankar had been working at BBlunt since 2013. He was unmarried. Sahjwani had been working at the salon chain for the past three years. She is married, and has a son in class 10, police said.
“The next challenge is to recover the body of Kirti and the murder weapon used by the accused. We are hopeful of getting leads on that following sustained interrogation of the accused,” a senior officer said.