The Mumbai Police Crime Branch Monday filed a 962-page chargesheet in the alleged murder case of Kirti Vyas (28), a finance manager at BBlunt salon in Andheri, who had been reported missing by her family on March 16. The police have charged Khushi Sahjwani (42) and Siddhesh Tamhankar (28), colleagues of Vyas with murder, kidnapping for murder, wrongful restraint and destruction of evidence among other sections of the Indian Penal Code. The police’s case rests mainly on traces of Vyas’s blood found in Sahjwani’s car, CCTV footage and Call Detail Records (CDR) of the accused.
Among the evidence submitted in the chargesheet is the CCTV footage taken from various places, including one that shows Vyas “seen last” with Tamhankar and Sahjwani in the latter’s car near her residence. A senior official said while Vyas’ family members had begun looking for her, Tamhankar, as her colleague, also joined in the search for her.
“At one point, he pointed towards CCTV footage of Grant Road station and identified a girl dressed in black to be Vyas. It was only later when another CCTV footage emerged where Vyas can be seen in a striped t-shirt that Tamhankar panicked,” said the official. He then informed one of the senior members of his office that he had dropped Vyas to Grant Road station on March 16. The chargesheet includes the statement of the senior who has told the police that he had told Tamhankar to tell the police about this.
In the chargesheet, the police have said the accused, arrested on May 5, allegedly murdered Vyas, a finance manager, as she was likely to sack Tamhankar since she was unhappy with his work and already served him a memo. Despite a rigorous search operation by the Crime Branch over three weeks, Vyas’s body, allegedly disposed off at a creek in Wadala, was not found.
A senior officer said: “In addition to statements of over 50 witnesses attached to the chargesheet, we have relied primarily on DNA test reports, CCTV footage and Call Details Records (CDR) to complete the chain of circumstantial evidence that shows the involvement of Sahjwani and Tamhankar in the murder.” The officer said the DNA test that showed the presence of blood sample of Vyas in the boot of Sahjwani’s Ford EcoSport car. “The duo will have to answer what the blood of Vyas was doing in their car. It was in the same car where Vyas was last seen with the duo. We believe we have clinching evidence and the absence of her body will not hamper our case,” said a senior Crime Branch officer. The police have also submitted the possibility of the body having been swept away due to the tidal position at the creek on the night it was disposed of.
An officer who was part of the investigation team said the CDR records of Sahjwani and Tamhankar along with the CCTV camera footage show how they had parked the car for nearly half an hour waiting near the residence of Vyas in Grant Road area. “This goes against their claim that they happened to see Vyas and volunteered to drop her to their Andheri office,” said an officer. While CCTV footage shows Vyas seated next to the driver’s seat till Navjeevan Society junction in Grant Road, she is not seen in the vehicle in the CCTV cameras after that, said an officer. The police believe she had been strangulated by Tamhankar around that time and her body was kept in the boot of the car that was parked at Sahjwani’s Santacruz residence. The accused went to work from there. “Despite being in the same office space, there were over 60 calls exchanged between the accused on that day,” said an officer.
The CDR records also show that later in the day, the duo drove down from Santacruz to the Bombay Port Trust (BPT) creek road where they are believed to have dumped the body.
Soon after Vyas was reported missing on March 16 after she did not return home from work, Sahjwani and Tamhankar joined the core group of colleagues that co-ordinated with the police. Infact, on a facebook page created to look for Vyas, Sahjwani had put up several posts. The local DB Marg police had interrogated Sahjwani and Tamhankar, but they withstood the scrutiny. Later, the case was handed over to the Crime Branch.
During interrogation, it came to light that Tamhankar, who worked in the accounts department and reported to Vyas, had been served a memo by Vyas to improve his work. “Ever since the Goods and Services Tax (GST) became effective since July 2017, Tamhankar had a tough time understanding it. March 16 was the deadline that Vyas had given him to improve his work. Both he and Sahjwani, a trainer in another department at the BBlunt salon, knew that Vyas was going to fire him since she was not happy with his work. That was the day they decided to bump her off,” said a Crime Branch officer.
Several police teams from the Crime Branch worked for weeks to trace the body of Vyas. They took the help of drones, local residents and dredging machines to look for her body in the nullah and other shores around the water body like Alibaug, Mahul and Navi Mumbai. The police stopped looking for her remains once monsoon set in as they believed her body would have been washed off by then.