On January 31, 2019, a 34-year-old woman and her two-year-old daughter were found dead in their 10th-floor flat at Mahim. The bodies were partially burnt. Did they die in a fire accident? Did the woman set herself and her daughter on fire? Were they murdered?
The bodies of Tehseen Sayyad and her daughter Aliya were lying next to each other in a pool of blood in the kitchen of their 10th-floor flat at Diamond Apartment in Mahim (east).
Tehseen’s husband Iliyas (36), who worked at an embroidery factory in Wadala, which was owned by him, was not at home. Around 11 am, Iliyas’s brother-in-law Mehraj Sayyad (33) was first alerted by a local resident about heavy smoke coming out of Iliyas’s flat.
Sayyad, who stayed in the same building, rushed to the 10th floor and saw thick smoke coming out of the exhaust fan in Iliyas’s flat. He tried calling Tehseen but her phone was switched off. He then called Iliyas. “I told him his house was on fire and asked him to come fast, to which he replied, ‘Ata hoon (I’m coming)’ and cut the call,” Sayyad told police. Other residents tried to break open the door but failed.
As Sayyad frantically searched for Tehseen in the locality, Iliyas returned home on his Activa scooter and opened the door using a key.
Sayyad said the girl’s leg was on fire and he doused it with a cloth. After the bodies were discovered, police were alerted. “We found deep wounds on their necks. The killer’s plan was to burn the bodies to destroy evidence,” assistant inspector Sandip Sawant, who first investigated the case and was a sub-inspector then, said.
Who was the killer?
A special team started looking for technical and forensic evidence as there were no eye witnesses and robbery was ruled out. It began the probe by examining the call data records of Iliyas and Tehseen.
Police sifted through footages of 16 CCTV cameras in the vicinity. In one of the cameras, a burkha-clad woman was seen exiting the building. Residents were unable to identify her. For the police, the woman became a ‘person of interest’.
Footages from another 30 CCTV cameras were analysed. Police spotted her taking a taxi from Dharavi. The driver was traced, who told police that he dropped the woman at Diamond Apartment from Five Gardens and sometime later again took her to Five Gardens. The CCTVs at Five Gardens were checked and the woman was seen leaving on an Activa scooter with a person.
Call data records showed Iliyas was in touch with a woman named Amreen Sayyad (22), a Wadala resident who was his relative. One of the cameras at Five Gardens captured her face. Some forensic evidence was also found against her at the murder spot.
Confronted with these, Iliyas broke down and confessed to the murders. Iliyas told police that around 9 am on January 31, 2019, he slit the throats of his wife and two-year-old daughter after his seven-year-old daughter left for school. He then met Amreen and asked her to go to his flat and set their bodies on fire.
Amreen used Tehseen’s phone to send a message to Iliyas, “Hum jaa rahe hai (We are going)” and then set their bodies on fire and left. Iliyas told police he was having an affair with Amreen and wanted to marry her and the two decided to eliminate his wife. “We cracked the case in 48 hours. We did suspect Iliyas as he did not cry at all. He did not speak a word. But we had to collect evidence before confronting him,” Sawant said.