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Two men have been arrested and a juvenile apprehended in connection with the murder of a 21-year-old aspiring airhostess in Shahdara district’s Mansarovar Park area. Riya Gautam was stabbed seven times on Wednesday, and succumbed to her injuries a day later. Her family had alleged that she had lodged a complaint against the accused in April.
Joint Commissioner of Police (eastern range) Ravindra Singh Yadav said the main accused has been identified as 23-year-old Adil Banne Khan. He was helped by 19-year-old Juned Salim Ansari and a juvenile, police said. “Khan is a resident of Mansarovar Park, while the two others are from Aligarh,” Yadav said. On Friday evening, Unit-9 of the Mumbai Crime Branch received information that the three were hiding in Bandra East. A search operation was carried out and police tracked them down to Behrampada, where Khan’s uncle lives. “The uncle had no idea what Khan had done. The accused had told him they were visiting Mumbai and would leave in two days,” said a Crime Branch officer.
The men were caught just as they were about to leave Behrampada. “We have conducted preliminary interrogation of the accused, and he has confessed to the murder. We have handed over custody to Delhi Police,” the officer added. During its probe, Delhi Police had found that the accused took Gautam’s mobile phone after killing her. “He told police he met her four years ago, when he used to drive a school cab and pick up a boy from near her home. After several meetings, they became friends. But she started avoiding him after he was arrested in a case of car theft. He claimed before police that he committed thefts to buy her gifts, including the mobile phone, but she continued to ignore him,” police said. Sources said Khan got agitated when he saw her with another man, and confronted her. This prompted her to file a police complaint against him. Scared, Khan fled to Gujarat from Delhi.
“After reaching Gujarat, he called her to apologise. Khan claimed they started talking again but she made it clear she was not interested in a relationship. He claimed he asked her to return the mobile phone he had gifted her, but she refused, which led to an argument,” sources said. Khan then plotted to kill her, police said. “He visited Aligarh, where his accomplices stay, and asked them to conduct a ‘recce’ of her home. They followed the woman for five days and purchased a knife from Chhota Bazaar in Shahdara,” sources said.
On July 5, when Gautam left her home, the accomplices alerted Khan. He approached her and asked for his mobile phone, police said, adding that when she refused, he stabbed her. “The trio then boarded several buses to eventually reach Mumbai. At one point, Khan switched on the woman’s phone to change the SIM card, which gave police a vital clue,” police sources said.