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Cops claim to crack murder mystery with arrest of hotel mgmt graduate

Police say Ankur Panwar, also a neighbour of Preeti, was jealous of her since his parents often compared him with her and taunted him.

By: Express News Service | Mumbai |
Updated: February 6, 2014 2:53:33 pm
Police say Ankur Panwar, also a neighbour of Preeti, was jealous of her since his parents often compared him with her and taunted him. Dilip Kagda Police say Ankur Panwar, also a neighbour of Preeti, was jealous of her since his parents often compared him with her and taunted him. Dilip Kagda

The Mumbai Police Crime Branch on Friday claimed to have cracked the nine-month-long mystery behind the murder of Delhi nurse Preeti Rathi with the arrest of her 23-year-old neighbour. The accused, police said, had been driven to attack Preeti with acid in May last year, because he was constantly being pushed to match the accomplishments that she had made in her career. A local court sent him to police custody till January 24.

The accused, Ankur Panwar, a hotel management graduate, lives next door to the Rathis in the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) Colony in New Delhi.

Police officers claimed that he had confessed to have procured concentrated sulphuric acid from a workshop near his residence. He also told the police that he travelled to Mumbai in the same train as the Rathi family and attacked Preeti as she alighted at the Bandra Terminus station.

Preeti (25), had got a job as a nurse at the INHS Asvini Hospital in Colaba and reached Mumbai on May 2, 2013, accompanied by her father Amarsingh Rathi, uncle Vinodkumar Singh and aunt Sunita Singh. The police said as the family made its way towards the subway, Panwar tapped Preeti on her shoulder and threw the acid on her face and fled. While it was initially suspected that he immediately escaped on the Jammu Tavi Express, he told the police that he hid on the platform for two hours and returned to New Delhi on the first train available.

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“He did not go to his parents’ home, but headed to the home of a cousin in Gurgaon. He lied to his parents that he had gone to Haridwar for a job interview at a hotel,” said Himanshu Roy, Joint Commissioner of Police, Crime. He added Panwar was employed at a hotel in Ahmedabad at the time of the arrest.

Preeti died of extensive burn injuries at a hospital in the city on June 1. The Government Railway Police (GRP), which was probing the case, had arrested a family friend Pawankumar Gahalon (24). He was released on bail in July.

The Mumbai Police Crime Branch took up the probe, following a direction of the Bombay High Court. The crime branch formed a Special Investigative Team (SIT) headed by Assistant Commissioner of Police Praful Bhosale to probe the case.
Panwar, a native of Alwar in Rajasthan, graduated in Bhubaneshwar, but failed to be placed on campus. “Panwar’s father would repeatedly tell him how successful Preeti had been. This gave rise to a feeling of jealousy, spite, anger and revenge. He then decided to attack her. The intention was to deface Preeti, so she would never get another job again,” said Roy.

After learning that Preeti was to travel to Mumbai, Panwar allegedly broke into a workshop on April 30 to acquire the acid.
On May 1, Panwar allegedly arrived at the Nizamuddin Railway Station at 11 am and waited for the Rathis to arrive. “He was hoping that Preeti would alight alone at a station along the way, but that did not happen. Because, he was ticketless, he moved around to avoid ticket conductors. He finally seized his chance in Mumbai,” said Roy.

The break came when Panwar was allegedly spotted in the CCTV footage of the Nizamuddin Railway Station.
Having already experienced one false arrest, the Rathis are cautious in reacting to Panwar’s arrest. “The police have told us that they will confirm his guilt beyond doubt in a couple of days. We will wait till then. However, a few neighbours have told us that they saw Panwar in the locality on the day of the attack,” said Amarsingh.

“I hope the police have arrested the right person this time. It is a little hard to believe that Panwar would attack Preeti on the reasons being cited by the police,” said Preeti’s cousin Lalit Solanki.

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