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Saturday, January 25, 2020

Mumbai: A tailor tag, sweater, Facebook profile — how police cracked Mahim murder

The first lead in the case, police said, had come in form of a tailor tag attached on the collar of a shirt, which was found in the white-and-silver stroller suitcase on December 2.

Written by Mohamed Thaver | Mumbai | Updated: December 8, 2019 1:29:01 pm
When police had first approached Ansari, he had told them there were at least 100 bill books for the clothes they had stitched. (Representational/Express photo)

IT WAS a combination of traditional investigation methods coupled with new-age techniques that helped Mumbai crime branch crack the Mahim murder case about five days after a suitcase with dismembered body parts were found floating at seaside behind a dargah and identify the deceased as a 59-year-old Santacruz resident. Police on Saturday arrest his 19-year-old “adopted” daughter and her 16-year-old boyfriend in connection with the murder case.

The first lead in the case, police said, had come in form of a tailor tag attached on the collar of a shirt, which was found in the white-and-silver stroller suitcase on December 2. The tag — ALMO’s Men’s Wear — had helped the police trace the tailor, later identified as Afroz Ansari, to Kurla (west).

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When police had first approached Ansari, he had told them there were at least 100 bill books for the clothes they had stitched. “We found a cloth patch attached to one of these bill books that matched with the shirt we had found in the suitcase. However, it turned out to be a false lead, as the person to whom this shirt belonged had his own shirt…,” Senior Inspector Jagdish Sail, crime branch (unit-V), said.

Eventually, police found another cloth patch that matched with the shirt recovered from the suitcase. But the bill book, police said, only had the first name of a person written on it. API Mahendra Patil and his team searched for the person on Facebook and found several profiles with the same name. However, in one particular profile, the display picture showed a man wearing a maroon sweater, similar to one found in the bag. “This was the first red flag,” Patil said.

Later, while going through the profile, police found that the person (name withheld) hardly had any hair on his leg, similar to the severed leg found from the suitcase.

Another vital clue was that the person had uploaded a photograph of a page with some musical notes and purportedly his signature. The signature, police added, matched with the one found on the tailor’s bill book that had the particular shirt patch.

“The last piece in the puzzle was that the person, who was otherwise active on Facebook, had not posted anything since November 25. In addition, a mobile phone number uploaded on the profile had not seen any activity since November 25 either,” an officer said.

DCP (crime branch) Shahaji Umap said, “We were lucky that the person had uploaded his address on the profile, based on which we could track his residence to Santacruz.” When the police team enquired with local residents if they had seen the man over the past few days, they replied in negative. “At this point, we were sure that we had identified the body. Now it was about finding the killer(s),” Sail said.

A police team then went to the man’s residence near Vakola mosque and found his 19-year-old “adopted” daughter and her boyfriend, a minor. “The first thing we noticed was what appeared to be a bloodstain on one of the walls,” an officer said. “When the police questioned the woman, she looked tense. She initially told police that her father had gone to Canada. However, when we started asking for more details, she started fumbling. Eventually, on sustained interrogation, she confessed to her role and that of her boyfriend,” the officer said.

The woman has accused the man of exploiting her sexually and opposing her relationship with the boy, police said.

The officer claimed that they also found a photograph of the man which the woman had taken on the day after they allegedly killed him.

Police are, however, yet to find out in which creek the body had been disposed of. “Now that we know the dates and the route taken by the duo, we will be checking CCTV camera footage to confirm their movements. We will also record the statements of the autorickshaw drivers who had taken them to the creek,” the officer added.

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