The spot lies off the Eastern Express Highway between Mumbai and Thane, a road too busy for anyone to throw a second glance at the expanse of land alongside the service road. For the same reason, however, it should have been difficult for anyone to carry and dump a murder victim there.
It was from here in Bhandup, on Mumbai’s outskirts, that the police recovered the body of Esther Anuhya, 23, a techie hailing from Hyderabad and working in Mumbai. Nearly a week later, no clear picture has emerged about what had happened after her disappearance on January 5; the body was found on January 16.
Today, the lane leading to Thane bustles with traffic as usual. Even when a motorist stops occasionally, it is for a smoke or to talk on his cellphone, not to look at the expanse of land filled with rubble, sand and garbage, and now marked by a yellow police tape and the presence of two policemen. A slight incline formed by the rubble hides the spot where the body was found.
Esther, 23, working with an IT firm in Malad, Mumbai, left her Hyderabad home on January 4 after having spent Christmas and New Year with her family. She reached Mumbai’s Lokmanya Tilak Terminus around 5.30 am on January 5, and was supposed to go to her hostel in Andheri. She never got there.
After trying to reach her for a day, her father approached Vijayawada railway police, who forwarded his missing persons complaint to the Kurla railway police, who in turn sent out a message to all police stations in Mumbai.
It was the stench of the body that led to its eventual discovery in Bhandup, which is nowhere on Esther’s way to Andheri. A motorist called the police control room about the smell. When the police got there, they found it overpowering. “I still can’t get the smell out of my head,” said constable Dilip Mane of Kanjurmarg police station.
The level of decomposition made it impossible to detect how exactly she had been killed. There were injuries around the private parts, suggesting sexual assault, but the body had been burnt from the pelvis down. The spot still has evidence of the burning, the ground having turned black.
Esther’s family, meanwhile, is trying to come to terms with its loss. “The police may catch the person responsible tomorrow morning, or they may catch him 15 days later. The fact that Esther is gone will not change,” said her uncle Arun Kumar. “If the missing persons complaint had been taken seriously, maybe we would never have had to see this day.”
In the days following the discovery, the police scanned call data records of weeks and spoke to Esther’s family, colleagues and friends at her hostel. continued…