The decomposed body of Mehram Sandhu (6), who went missing while playing in a park near his house in Phase 9 ten days ago, was found buried near an unauthorised garbage dumping point in the forest area of Sector 69 on Friday morning.
The body was unrecognisable, and the police suspect it had been burnt using a chemical substance. The upper jaw was found at some distance, along with one of Mehram’s shoes. The body was identified from the shoes by family members who were called by the police.
A small earthen pot containing ashes was found near the spot, suggesting the boy could be a victim of some tantrik ritual. The police believe it could also be an attempt to mislead them, and are not ruling out the possibility of involvement of some person close to the family.
Mehram, who stayed with his mother Harinder Kaur and maternal grandparents, went missing around 6 pm on October 28, following which his father Varinder Pal Singh — who has separated from Harinder Kaur — grandfather, uncle and aunt were booked for kidnapping on a complaint from Kaur’s family.
Kaur told the police that Varinder Pal, who is in Sydney, had called her and threatened to take away the child that very afternoon. However, the police found no evidence against Varinder Pal and his family members. Varinder Pal told the police, when contacted on the phone, that he had called Kaur, but not issued any threat.
Police said none of the children who were in the park at that time knew how Mehram had disappeared, but they reported having seen a middle-aged man, wearing a yellow shirt and blue jeans, keeping a watch on him.
The body was found around 10.30 am, when Veerpal, a sanitation worker who had gone there to dump garbage, went into the bushes to relieve himself. He saw the foot of a child protruding from the ground at a spot covered by bushes. Alarmed, he informed members of the sanitation workers’ union who intimated the police.
Police officials and a forensic team, upon reaching the spot, found that the body was buried under earth and stones. Mehram’s family members were called, they recognised him from the blue-coloured shoe on the foot, and broke down.
The area was cordoned off for combing in which Mehram’s second shoe was found in the bushes some feet away. His upper jaw was also found there. The bushes at the spot looked burnt and reeked of a chemical substance. A dog squad was called.
In the afternoon, the body was exhumed in the presence of the duty magistrate, doctors and the exercise was filmed. The upper part of the body was decomposed, and only the skull and the skeleton remained. In fact, the skull got detached when the body was being shifted.
The lower part was comparatively in a better condition. The blue capri pants and a yellow shirt, which Mehram wore, and his bangle and kirpan were also found, as was the white handkerchief worn on his head.
The remains were taken to civil hospital, Phase 6, where a board of doctors, including a forensic expert from Fatehgarh Sahib, conducted the post-mortem. Later, Patiala Zone IG Paramjit Gill visited the spot and a fresh search of the area was conducted.
“I was investigating the case like he was my own son and we worked on several theories. First, we questioned Mehram’s father and his family members, but got no lead. Then, we presumed there would be a ransom call, but there was none. An earthen pot containing ashes was also found at the spot, leading to speculation about involvement of a tantrik but it is too early to arrive at any conclusion, and we’re working on all possible angles. It is likely that Mehram was murdered within a day or two after the kidnapping. The case will be cracked very soon,” he said.
According to a police official, the post-mortem hinted at strangulation of Mehram with a piece of cloth, which was found wrapped around his neck.
The police have added the charge of murder in the FIR against Mehram’s father, grandfather Nirmal Singh, uncle Prabhjit Singh and his wife Parminder Kaur.
The police questioned some migrant workers who live in the huts nearby, but they said they witnessed nothing suspicious in the area. A few days ago, some of Mehram’s relatives had received a few suspicious calls. The police are investigating these calls as well.
Kin allege police inaction
Mehram’s relatives and neighbours, who gathered at the spot, alleged police inaction. IG Gill, however, said that there were no lapses on the police’s part and the guilty would be nabbed soon.
The forest area where the body was found is being used as an unauthorised dumping ground. Therefore, the police found a number of items near the spot and were confused whether these were part of garbage or potential clues.