Every few months, Maruti Erande goes to Vashi police station in Navi Mumbai to find out if the police have any leads on his daughter, Prachi. It has been nearly three years since the 26-year-old constable attached to Kamothe police station has been missing and Maruti says they have received no information on her so far.
On August 4, 2015, Prachi had called up her residence in Ghatkopar, informing her family that she would be returning home in some time. While she did not return, her scooter was found parked near the Vashi bridge, which runs over a creek and is a spot from where many have, in the past, committed suicide. The police, however, could not conclusively say if Prachi had committed suicide as her body was never found.
Officials from Vashi police station say that a missing person’s complaint was registered at the time and the investigation into her ‘disappearance’ continues till date. “We had alerted all coastal police stations for any news on a body. Since she was in her police uniform at the time of the incident, we assumed that it would not be difficult to identify her even if her body washed ashore far away. But, no information came from anywhere,” says an officer. He added that they had conducted various searches in the creek with the help of local fishermen but had not spotted the body.
“Apart from the fact that her scooter was found parked at the bridge, there is no foolproof evidence to show that she may have committed suicide. There are no eyewitnesses from among the passersby or fishermen and the body, too, was never found. Yet, there have been cases in which drowned bodies were not recovered if they were to get stuck to something deep down, so we cannot rule the possibility out either,” the officer adds. The police say that the other possibility is that Prachi went away on her own will and is hiding deliberately from her past life.
Besides the scooter, police found Prachi’s handbag, cellphone and a Rs 500 currency note among her belongings. On the Rs 500 note, Prachi had left a message for her husband Ganesh Wagh, asking him why he had been dishonest, why he had married her and lied to his parents. The message, scribbled with a blue-inked pen, was written in Marathi. Prachi and Wagh married in April and the police suspect a marital discord.
“We checked the Call Data Records and other evidence connected with Prachi and found nothing suspicious about any of their involvement, including her husband’s, in her disappearance,” says a senior officer from Vashi police station.
“Since she is a police personnel, she would know how to hide her trail well, if she does not want to be found. In cases of murder and kidnapping, we know we are looking for an accused, so there are various ways of investigating them, in cases of missing persons, if the person herself does not want to be found, it can be a difficult case to solve,” says the officer. The police say that she was last seen on the CCTV footage of an ATM in Navi Mumbai and lack of CCTV cameras on the Vashi bridge in 2015 only made it difficult to find out if she left the spot or jumped into the creek.
“We are continuing the investigation and conduct periodic reviews to find any leads in the case,” says Senior Inspector Ajaykumar Landge in Vashi police station. Prachi’s father says that apart from police station visits, they have tried to find leads on their own too. “We checked with all our relatives, neighbours and her friends for any clues about where she may have gone. We are only waiting for some information on her, good or bad. We just want to know what happened to her,” says Erande.