Investigation by the Pune rural police has revealed that the two suspects arrested in connection with the murder of two engineering students in Lonavala are history-sheeters, who looted couples at secluded spots after making them strip in late evening hours. The bodies of the 22-year-old boy, a final year student from the Sinhagad Institute in Technology in Lonavala and the 21-year-old girl, a fourth year student from a different branch, were found with their clothes stripped off on the afternoon of April 3 in the forest area near Bhushi dam between INS Shivaji and Air Force Station in Lonavala.
The probe revealed that the assailants, identified as Salim Shaikh of Lonavala and Asif Shaikh, a native of Agra, saw the couple at a secluded spot around 9 pm on April 2. The duo, armed with a sharp weapon, approached the couple, threatened them and first asked the boy to remove his clothes. He did so, but when the duo asked the girl to strip too, the boy protested. For this, they attacked him with a chopper and then stoned him to death. On watching the brutal attack on the boy, the girl started screaming. The assailants killed her too by strangulating her with the boy’s shirt.
The two assailants then tied their hands and legs, took their cellphones and fled from the spot. An offence of murder and robbery was lodged the next day at the Lonavala city police station. Superintendent (SP) of Pune rural police Mohammed Suvez Haque formed a special investigation team (SIT) to trace the murderers. Haque also announced a reward of Rs 50,000 for the person giving crucial information about the murderers.
Acting on a tip-off to police sub-inspector Aniruddha Gije and police constable Amit Thosar, the SIT picked up history-sheeter Salim Shaikh and later arrested his accomplice Asif Shaikh from Agra. The duo were produced before the Wadgaon Maval court on Monday. The court remanded them to police custody till June 16 for further investigation. Vishwas Nangre Patil, Inspector General of Police (Kolhpur range) said, “The case was solved with collective efforts. The technical team, led by inspector Sunil Pawar, did the verification of phone calls. But our focus was on human intelligence. The cash reward announced by the SP played an important role in cracking the case. We have got two important witnesses in this case.” Patil added that the two suspects arrested in this case have confessed to their involvement in the crime.
“The main accused from Lonavala was on our radar since the beginning. He operated a vada pav stall in Lonavala. Our teams questioned him two days after the murder. But he later went to Ahmednagar. We followed his movements and arrested him after his role was confirmed. We have recovered the cellphones of the deceased boy and girl from a safety tank of his house in Siddharth Nagar area. Meanwhile, his aide fled to Hyderabad and then to Agra, where we arrested him. The duo have committed two crimes in the past together. However, the victims did not register complaints in both these cases. It was their modus operandi to target couples in secluded areas of Lonavala and rob them after stripping their clothes,” he said.
Police also plan to invoke section 120 (b) of the IPC (criminal conspiracy) against them in this case, along with murder and robbery, against the two assailants. Police said there was no sexual assault, but the crime was committed brutally. According to the police, Salim was booked in a case of theft, a house-breaking and a robbery in the past. He was arrested in the robbery case by the Pune rural police on March 12, 2016, and convicted by the court, with punishment of four-months rigorous imprisonment. He was released from jail after serving the punishment.