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Cops record statements of four; Aaftab's family untraceable

The other two persons whose statements were recorded are a former manager of the call centre in Mumbai, where Shraddha was working, and her female friend.

Cops record statements of four; Aaftabs family untraceable
Aftab Amin Poonawala with Shraddha Walker

MUMBAI: A Delhi Police team on Saturday recorded statements of four persons in Maharashtra's Palghar including two men from whom 27-year-old Shraddha Walkar, who was allegedly murdered by her live-in partner Aaftab Poonawala in May, had sought assistance after she was assaulted by the accused in 2020, officials said.

The other two persons whose statements were recorded are a former manager of the call centre in Mumbai, where Shraddha was working, and her female friend.

Local police said family members of Aaftab Poonawala have fled to an unknown location from a building in Mira Road near Mumbai where they had shifted last month, and are untraceable.

The Delhi Police team is in Manikpur in Palghar district's Vasai, which is the native area of the victim and where the couple had stayed before shifting to the national capital.

The two male witnesses whose statements were recorded are identified as Rahul Ray and Godwin. Both of them are residents of Vasai region, a police official said, adding that one of them is a rickshaw driver and the other is currently unemployed.

Walkar had sought their assistance in 2020 after she was beaten up by Poonawala near Vasai, and the duo had helped her at the time.

The four-member Delhi police team, which landed in Mumbai on Friday, had recorded the statement of Shraddha's friend Laxman Nadar, the official said.

Police on Saturday spoke with some office-bearers of the housing society and also visited the flat of the Poonawalas, which was found locked, a Mira Bhayandar Vasai Virar (MBVV) police official said. Meanwhile, Shraddha's father Vikas Walkar on Saturday claimed he had visited Aaftab's residence in Vasai earlier but was insulted and warned by his family members not to come again.

Speaking to the Marathi news channel ABP Majha, he said he was not aware when his daughter shifted to Delhi, where she was killed in May this year.

He demanded justice for Shraddha (27) and stern punishment for Aaftab for the ghastly crime.

Amid the national outrage, the murder found an echo in the run-up to the next month's Gujarat Assembly elections with Assam Chief Minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma terming it a case of ''love jihad'' and pitching for another term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2024 elections.

He also said someone like Aaftab will be born in every city if the country does not get a powerful leader and a government that respects India like one's mother.

According to the police, Poonawala allegedly strangled Walkar on May 18 and sawed her body into 35 pieces which he kept in a fridge for almost three weeks at his residence in South Delhi's Mehrauli before dumping them across the city over several days past midnight.

Vikas Walkar said he had visited Aaftab's residence (at Vasai in Palghar district of Maharashtra) to find a solution to the issue (about their relationship) but he was insulted by Aaftab's cousin. ''His (Aaftab's) family members had warned me not to visit their residence again. After the death of my wife, the efforts to find a solution were stopped,'' he told the news channel. ''I had tried to convince Shraddha (to walk out of the relationship) but she wouldn't listen,'' he added.

Addressing a rally in Gujarat's Kutch district on Friday, the Assam chief minister said, ''Recently, one Aaftab brought Shraddha from Mumbai and cut her into 35 pieces in the name of love jihad. And after that, where did he put her body? In the fridge. When the body was in the fridge, he brought another girl and started dating her''.

The crime continues to be the talk of the town even though a week has passed after it came to light and Poonawala was arrested in Delhi. The whereabouts of Aaftab's family members, who shifted to a society in Mira Road from Vasai in Palghar district last month, are not known. Soon after they moved into the building, the family members, including Aaftab's parents and brother, went on a short vacation and returned after the news of his grisly crime broke, a building member said.

''After this, we saw them (Aaftab’s father Amin and mother Munira) twice while they were keeping the dustbin outside their flat. Amin Bhai, Munira and their (other) son are talkative. We have not seen them since the last week,'' he told PTI.

Residents of the housing society were shocked after learning that a member of the family that shifted into their building last month, has been arrested for killing his live-in partner and chopping her body into pieces.

The residents said they have not seen Aaftab Poonawala (28) since the family shifted to the Mira Road society.

''The family shifted into a two-bedroom flat on the 11th floor of this building around Diwali, but the flat has been locked since last week. After this (news about Aaftab), the Poonawala family was in a state of depression. We don't know where they are now,'' he said.

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