News of a murder in their midst – of a 27-year-old woman by her 28-year-old live-in partner – shook the neighbourhood of Chhattarpur Pahadi, where the two stayed on rent, but most in the locality said they never noticed anything suspicious till police arrived to arrest the accused on Saturday.
The woman, Shraddha Walkar, was strangled to death, allegedly by Aaftab Poonawala, who chopped the body into pieces and dumped them in Mehrauli jungle over months.
The Indian Express Monday visited the apartment and the neighbourhood, where the couple moved on May 15. The two had submitted their ID cards to the landlord, but most neighbours never saw the woman since she was there for just three days before she was killed.
The single-room apartment is located on the first floor in a congested lane. And while the accused used agarbatti, dhoop, potpourri and room fresheners to mask the stench, there was evident odour even on Monday. On a table, a bowl of potpourri still remained, while dust had settled on the furniture.
The accused bought a new fridge, to store the body parts, from a nearby dealer on May 16.
Their downstairs neighbour works at a private firm and often spends the day at his workplace. On the first floor, a neighbour, who refused to be named, said, “We shifted here in July. I have never seen or heard about the woman. We would see Aaftab going to work or roaming around, but never suspected anything. He was always polite.”
Another neighbour, Kusum Lata, said she “might” have seen the woman once or twice when the couple first moved in. “A lot of youngsters live here and invite their friends. He would play loud music and sometimes we would hear arguments but that is very common here…”
A shopkeeper said he would see Aftaab regularly but there was nothing suspicious about him. Many in the neighbourhood thought he lived alone.
Police said he would step out around 1-2 am to dispose of the body parts, over two-three months. Police said the area has several young tenants who are out during late hours, so his movements didn’t evoke suspicion.
A police officer said, “It took him almost a day to cut and pack the body into small poly bags. He did all this in the bathroom and wiped the floor several times.”
To dispose of the parts, he walked to dumping yards, cremation grounds and jungle areas. “After almost two-three months, he discarded the head and the torso,” said the officer.
After his arrest on Saturday, police took him to Mehrauli jungle to recover the parts. Sources said they have found 13 body parts, mostly bones.