The Mumbai police Saturday arrested two boys, aged 16 and 17, for allegedly kidnapping and killing a three-and-a-half-year-old neighbour for ransom. The duo, who had seen the girl’s family receiving visitors in high end cars, had allegedly decided to abduct her at least a year ago.
They strangulated the girl with the cord of a mobile phone charger on December 5, the day they kidnapper her, though they demanded a Rs 1-crore ransom, said investigators. According to Deputy Commissioner of Police Zone 1 Manoj Kumar Sharma, Juneiza Khan, a resident of Nagpada, was reported missing on December 5.
Her parents approached the JJ Marg police station, where a missing person’s complaint was registered. Posters bearing the girl’s photograph were pasted in the locality, seeking information on her.
After at least two weeks of looking for her, her father Mumtaz, a scrap dealer, received a ransom call on December 19. “The caller told me that he had kidnapped my daughter. He said that if I wanted to see my daughter alive, I should pay him Rs 1 crore,” Mumtaz told The Indian Express. He informed the JJ Marg police station of the call, where a case of kidnapping was filed against unidentified persons.
While the police started investigating the matter, the family continued to receive calls from the kidnappers. The distraught father told the kidnappers that he could not pay such a big sum. Over the next four days, a sum of Rs 28 lakh was agreed upon by the two sides as the ransom amount. The accused told the the girl’s father to carry the money and meet him at Kalwa railway station on Saturday.
Mumtaz said, “I took the train and they told me to keep going till Titwala. Then they asked me to return to Kalwa. At one point, they told me to throw the money at a particular spot. I, however, insisted that I wanted to hear my daughter’s voice first.” He added, “The person on the other line told me that my daughter was unconscious. I told them that till I heard my daughter’s voice, I would not give them the money. Around this time, they may have seen the police, for they switched off the mobile phone.”
The police were tracking the phone calls and found that they were sourced from the same locality where Mumtaz resides, in Nagpada. They discovered that the calls were emanating from a building adjacent to Mumtaz’s home. “We managed to trace the calls to a 17-year-old boy from the neighbouring building,” said sub-inspector D Bhalereo from JJ Marg police station.
On interrogating the 17-year-old, the police found that a 16-year-old on the same floor as Mumtaz was also involved in the plot. On asking them where the girl was, they reportedly confessed to the police that they had murdered the girl on the very first day. They allegedly told police that her body had been kept on the terrace of the 17-year-old’s building, from where police recovered it.
An officer said that the duo, one of them a Class XII science student and the other an FYJC student, had been plotting this for over a year.
“They claim that they would see relatives come in expensive cars to visit Mumtaz. They figured that Mumtaz had a lot of money and they could extort from him,” said the officer. They were waiting for a time when either of their houses was empty, the officer said.
This happened on December 5, when the 16-year-old, who resides on the same floor as Mumtaz, was alone at home, the police said. He was known to the girl and he lured her to his residence to play. There, the duo made her unconscious using chloroform. However, she started bleeding from the nose. Worried, the duo then strangulated her to death using a mobile charger cord.
They then kept the body below the water tank on the terrace of the 17-year-old’s building. The police suspect they may have used air fresheners to ensure that the smell of the decomposing body did not spread.
The police said they are yet to decide if they would seek permission for the duo to be tried under the new Juvenile Justice law as adults.