It’s been close to three years since the body of a two-and-half-year-old girl, who was sexually assaulted, was found at the bottom of a cliff in Ghatkopar West, on a hill dotted with tenements. The identity of her alleged rapist and murderer still evades investigators. The crime is eerily similar to the spate of rapes and murders of toddlers in Cuffe Parade and Colaba in 2011-12. Like in South Mumbai, the suspect, seemingly, disappeared into thin air after abducting the child, the police say.
The victim, who was the youngest in a family of three children living with their parents on a hillock in Ghatkopar, was last seen at 8 pm on October 7, 2015, when she asked her father for money to buy sweets from a shop, located just a few feet away from her home in a congested lane in the slum. The girl’s walk, to and from the shop, ought to have taken no more than a few minutes. When she did not return after nearly an hour, her parents got anxious, police said.
“The crime took place within just 15 or 20 minutes,” said Vyankat Patil, senior inspector, Ghatkopar police station. When a slum-wide lead by worried parents and neighbours headed nowhere, they called the local police. A night-long search in the slums was unsuccessful. It was only the next day that the girl was discovered dead in Sangharsh Nagar in the jurisdiction of Saki Naka police station. Police believes she was thrown down the edge of the cliff.
What has baffled the police since is that the girl would not have ventured in that direction, which is completely opposite to the shop. Officers, involved in the investigation, suspect the girl was kidnapped on her way to the shop, literally off her doorstep. Patil also laments that so far not one person has claimed to have seen the girl since she left her home or offered any clue about the person responsible for her disappearance.
What the police has done since retrieving the body of the girl, is explore each possibility that resulted in her ending at the bottom of a drop equivalent to the height of a 12 floor building. A policemen, who was posted at Ghatkopar police station in 2015, said that the police procured dead chickens, weighing 15 kilos, roughly the girl’s own weight, and threw them off the cliff. This was done to seek answer whether she had fallen accidentally and died as a result or she was intentionally thrown off.
The officer added that the demonstration ended with a chicken, that was thrown off the cliff, landing close to the spot, where the girl’s body was found on October 9. Parallely, the police also collected a DNA sample of the semen found on the girl’s body and has been attempting to find the accused. Akhilesh Singh, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Zone VII, said that DNA samples of more than 90 people have been collected till date. None, however, have returned a positive match after tests at the Kalina Forensic Science Laboratory. “We questioned a lot of men living in the area and also checked with criminals in our record, who live in that area but have not found the culprit yet,” said Patil. “We are continuing our efforts to identify and nab the person responsible,” added Singh.