Morphing the photo of a friend’s wife and passing it off as the handiwork of a roommate proved costly for a 22-year-old man in Mumbai last month. The offender was eventually murdered by his angry roommate. However, the investigation led the police in different directions before the unlikely
motive came to light.
On the morning of April 28, police found the body of a young unidentified man below Raheja Bridge at Mahim Creek. Medical examination showed that the killers had bludgeoned his face after slitting his neck with a knife.
A day later, a man claiming to be the brother of the deceased approached the police and identified him as Sheikh Asif Sheikh Rabiullah, a tailor living in Behrampada, Bandra (East). The brothers hailed from Nandigram in West Bengal.
Police found that Asif had been imprisoned in Arthur Road Jail October last year for allegedly molesting a minor girl in Nirmal Nagar, Bandra (East). After being released on bail earlier this year, he had been living with his brother.
Personnel from Shahu Nagar police station in Dharavi initially felt that a pair of bus tickets to Bhatpada in Vasai found in Asif’s pants pockets and bearing the stamp of the Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation would lead them to the culprits. Police visited Vasai railway station, where, after examining CCTV footage from April 27, they found Asif accompanied by an unidentified woman an hour after the bus arrived in Bhatpada.
“We scanned the Call Data Records (CDRs) of Asif’s cellphone and found the woman’s phone number. She turned out to be a prostitute who was to accompany Asif to Mahim that night, before he decided to go alone. After questioning her, it became clear that she had nothing to do with the murder,” said senior inspector Netaji Bhopale of Unit V of the crime branch.
The police then turned their attention to the family of the girl molested in Nirmal Nagar for a possible motive. “Asif’s jail cell-mate had told us that the girl’s family had assaulted him before arrest. We called them in for questioning as well, but found that they were innocent,” he said.
On scanning the CDR further, the police found calls made in 2013 by Asif to two men in Behrampada — his former roommates. Having acquired Asif’s previous address in Behrampada, the police kept a watch on the room and identified his former roommates, Islam Imran Mohammed Shaikh who also went by the name Totan and another roommate, Zakeria Alam Shaikh.
“We spoke to both men separately. Initially, both denied having been in contact with Asif after his release. But after repeated questioning, Totan admitted to helping Zakeria kill Asif because he allegedly falsely implicated him in a crime he did not commit,” said Bhopale.
According to the police, Asif had taken the picture of the wife of a common friend living in Nandigram from Zakeria’s cellphone, without his knowledge and allegedly morphed her face onto the pic of a nude woman’s body before circulating the image among friends in Mumbai and West Bengal in early 2013. The image eventually reached the attention of the woman’s husband in Nandigram.
When Asif visited Nandigram last year, he met the woman’s husband and allegedly told him Zakeria was responsible for the obscene images. “The husband was furious and immediately called Zakeria and gave him a dressing down. Zakeria said he was innocent,” said Bhopale.
After being told that Asif was the one responsible, Zakeria had been looking for an opportunity to get even with him, but he was then jailed for molestation. After his release, Zakeria kept a watch on Asif’s movements and finally cornered him on Sunday, April 27.
According to statements recorded with the crime branch, Zakeria asked Asif to meet him below Raheja Bridge on April 28 for drinks. “After Asif was intoxicated, Zakeria and Totan overpowered him and slit his throat. Later, they also battered his face repeatedly with a large rock. They dumped the body there and fled,” said Bhopale. Zakeria and Totan were arrested on May 2 and are currently in judicial custody at Arthur Road Jail.