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Solving Crime: An unexpected lead, DNA test 881, how Mumbai police cracked 2010 Nehru Nagar rape-murders after 7 years

The Indian Express begins a weekly column which gives a closer view of the way the Maharashtra Police have gone about solving complex crimes. First up, how the questioning of an accused in another case led them to the accused in the rape and murder of two girls.

In March 2010, a nine-year-old girl went missing and her body was recovered on the terrace of the police quarters close to the Nehru Nagar police station. (Express archives)

One of the most “stubborn” unsolved cases that both the Mumbai police and the Maharashtra criminal investigation department (CID) were faced with for more than seven years, causing much embarrassment to its rank and file, was eventually solved by the neighbouring Navi Mumbai police thanks to their investigation in another case.

Three girls, aged between five and nine, were raped and murdered in the Nehru Nagar area within five months of each other in 2010. In the first incident, which occurred on February 8, a six-year-old girl playing outside her home was reported missing. Her body was recovered in a gunny bag on the staircase of a building in Nehru Nagar.

Within a month, a nine-year-old girl went missing and her body was recovered on the terrace of the police quarters close to the Nehru Nagar police station, which was investigating the first case. On June 19, the body of a third girl, who had gone missing, was found in a room in the Nehru Nagar area. Then Maharashtra home minister R R Patil directed the police that he “wanted the pervert nabbed”.

Eventually, the Mumbai police said they arrested in connection with the third case a person named Javed Shaikh, whose life sentence was upheld by Bombay High Court in December 2021. However, the accused involved in the first two cases remained unknown even after the matter was transferred to the state CID in 2012.

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In September 2017, an SIT formed by the Navi Mumbai police to trace an accused who was involved in several molestation cases involving minors arrested one Rehan Qureshi in connection with the case. After Qureshi was brought before the then Navi Mumbai police commissioner Sanjay Kumar, the latter asked him where he resided over the past few years. Qureshi gave details about the five places he had stayed but skipped one place: Nehru Nagar.

As per the information the police had gathered about Qureshi’s background, they found he resided in Nehru Nagar since 1984 and was there in 2010 when the Nehru Nagar rape and murder cases took place. Commissioner Kumar, whose earlier stint was incidentally with the CID and had investigated the Nehru Nagar case, realised that Qureshi may be linked to the case.

Immediately, the DNA samples of Qureshi and two alien samples taken from the bodies of the two girls who were raped and murdered in Nehru Nagar, believed to be that of the perpetrator of the crime, were sent to Maharashtra Forensic Science Laboratory.

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By this point, a total of 880 DNA samples had been checked against the alien samples found from the girls and all had gone unmatched. However, DNA test number 881 was a match: the police finally believed they had the man who was behind the rape and murders of the two girls in the Nehru Nagar area in 2010.

The chargesheets were filed in the two rape and murder cases against Qureshi and the trial in the case began before the Mumbai sessions court in 2021.

First published on: 25-08-2022 at 04:26:46 pm
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