A severely disillusioned S J S Prasad, father of 23-year-old Esther Anuhya, whose burnt body was found off the Eastern Express Highway on the outskirts of Mumbai, said on Thursday that he did not expect police to ever catch his daughter’s killers.
“I hope no parent has to cry in the wilderness the way I did,” Prasad said, as he recounted the ordeal of running from pillar to post from the time his daughter went missing to when her body was found in Bhandup.
Esther, who worked for an IT firm in Mumbai, arrived at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus from her native Hyderabad at 5 am on January 5, and was last seen leaving the station to take an autorickshaw to her hostel in Andheri. She never reached the hostel, and her mutilated, burnt and decomposed body was found off the Mumbai-Thane highway on January 16.
Police have no clues or suspects so far, only several questions and a few theories of the murder. When Esther’s relatives in Mumbai approached them on January 6, the MIDC police in Andheri told them to go to the Kurla railway police, who told them to go to the Vijayawada railway police because there was no evidence until then to show that she had actually reached Mumbai.
Prasad registered a complaint with the Vijayawada railway police and came to Mumbai with a copy of the FIR. For the next few days, he went to the Kurla railway police, Tilak Nagar police and Crime Branch’s unit V, before finally deciding to take matters into his own hands.
“I was not looking for a body when I searched both sides of the Express Highway night and day, accompanied by friends, relatives and the local police. I was looking for some clue that I hoped would lead to my daughter. While the police sat with their computers scanning Esther’s call data records (CDRs), I obtained her last known location from the cellular service provider. It was near Bhandup lake, and I started the search,” Prasad said.
According to Prasad, the police assured him that Esther was not dead because they had no report about a body anywhere. He said they frequently called numbers from her CDRs, all of which turned out to belong to her friends or relatives. “A particular number was of a school-time friend of Esther’s who lives in Chennai, and the police got stuck on it. Ultimately, we had to buy a ticket for him and get him to Mumbai so that the police could question him. He was questioned for two days before being declared clean,” Prasad said.
The police also allegedly told Prasad that Esther might have simply run away with a boyfriend, and would return soon. Prasad said he continued to trust the police and hope for a lead for several days before realising that they were not even checking the area indicated by her cellphone to be her last location.
“I don’t think I will be able to return to a city where I have suffered such a loss. My relatives in Mumbai are in regular touch with the police. Meanwhile, I am planning to meet some central government officials,” Prasad said.