A 25-YEAR-old woman was sexually assaulted and murdered at her residence in Vile Parle East early Tuesday morning. The victim, a physiotherapist, was found strangulated with a pair of jeans in her room and the place had been set on fire. Police are yet to make an arrest in the case.
Following the post-mortem report, Vile Parle police have registered a case under sections 302 (punishment for murder), 376 (punishment for rape), 377 (unnatural offences) and 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence) of the IPC.
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The victim was found in a semi-clad condition and had suffered slight burns to the left side of her face due to the fire. However, there were no other clear signs of injury, an officer at Vile Parle station said. Vile Parle police believe the fire was started to erase evidence.
Vile Parle police had earlier registered an Accidental Death Report (ADR) in the case and had waited for the post-mortem report for confirmation on charges of murder and sexual assault.
“The victim, a 25-year-old woman, was found dead early morning today at her residence which falls under the Vile Parle police station jurisdiction. We are investigating further and are waiting for the post-mortem report. We will take action accordingly thereafter,” said Virendra Mishra, Deputy Commissioner of Police.
The post-mortem report came around 9 pm Tuesday and confirmed that the victim had been raped and murdered. No arrest has been made so far and police are questioning the victim’s friends.
The incident is believed to have occurred in the wee hours of Tuesday as the victim’s parents and neighbours discovered the body at around 3.30 am.
“I was up late last night watching television till around 3.30 am. I noticed smoke emanating from my air-conditioning unit and thought it was on fire. When I switched on the exhaust fan to let smoke out, more smoke started coming into my house from the adjacent room on the first floor where the victim lived. Then I called her mother, who lives downstairs with her husband and younger daughter, to tell her about the smoke,” said Vaibhav Phatji, the victim’s neighbour.
Once the victim’s family and neighbours opened the door to the victim’s room, more smoke came out, the neighbour said. They tried to douse the fire by throwing water and discovered the victim’s body in the room.
“The victim’s cousin brother entered the room first and found her lying in the corner with a pair of jeans tightly wound around her neck. I helped him bring the body out. Books and clothes were kept in a pile and burnt. That was where the smoke was coming from. Her room too was latched from the outside, which is unusual. She usually shuts her door from the inside and leaves it unlatched,” said Sachin Phatji, Vaibhav’s brother, who lives on the ground floor with his family. “I only woke up due to the commotion and saw people trying to douse the fire,” he said.
The neighbours then called police. Vaibhav claims he did not hear any commotion and noise from the victim’s room, separated from his house by a single wall, as he was watching television. He was only alerted when the smoke entered his house.
Another neighbour claimed that the victim had come to her house with three friends around 11 pm on Monday. The friends left around midnight, the neighbour said.
The victim practised physiotherapy at a hospital in Dadar and also saw private clients. “She had lived here all her life with her family. Nothing like this has ever happened here,” said Vaibhav. The neighbours said the victim was a good student and had scored 95 per cent in her 10th board exams. “She was good natured and mostly kept to herself,” another neighbour said.