Though they’d been having arguments for months, it was a fight over who’d pay for household expenses that escalated to Aftab Poonawala killing his live-in partner Shraddha Walkar in Delhi’s Mehrauli on May 18 evening, sources said on Wednesday based on his interrogation so far.
Shraddha’s friends and the couple’s earlier landlords in Vasai near Mumbai, too, have told NDTV that they had regular quarrels, mostly over suspicions of cheating on each other.
On May 18, their fight began over buying some household items. It escalated as some other issues came in and, sometime between 8 and 10 pm, Aftab Poonawala strangled Shraddha Walkar to death, sources in the police said.
“He kept the body in the same room overnight, and then went to buy a knife and fridge the next day,” an officer told NDTV. Police have corroborated the events with statements from shopkeepers.
He is alleged to have chopped up the body into 35 pieces, kept them in a fridge, and then dumped them in a jungle nearby over the next 18 days.
Police going to the flat in which Aftab Poonawala and Shraddha Walkar lived, in Delhi’s Mehrauli area.
The story unraveled over the past month after Shraddha Walkar’s parents — who hadn’t spoken to her in a year as they didn’t approve of her inter-faith (Hindu-Muslim) relationship — went to the police in Vasai in Maharashtra, their hometown near Mumbai, after some friends told him she’d been out of touch for months.
Cops from Vasai first called Aftab for questioning and later tied up with Delhi Police as doubts grew. Eventually, bank transfers from her phone app and some Instagram chats, tallied with mobile signal location, helped the police figure out that Aftab had been lying that she had left on her own on May 22. He had been using her phone and apps to make it look like she was alive, probe officials said.
Both worked in call centres and had been living together at least since last year, first near Mumbai, where they had met on dating app Bumble, and then in Delhi since moving here in May this year.
After about a week in a hotel, they had taken a flat on rent on May 14. He allegedly killed her four days later.
Recently Aftab was fired from his job in Gurugram for being absent without leave, police sources said.
He has led investigators to some bones in the Mehrauli jungle; police said they’ve have sent those and her father’s DNA samples to a forensics lab to check if the bones are Shraddha’s. Some bloodstains have also been found from the flat, sources said.
Yet, key evidence remains to be gathered, such as the knife he used; the victim’s severed head or any other identifiable body part; the clothes she was wearing that day; or her phone that Aftab dumped either in Maharashtra or Delhi. He has been changing his statements, so police intend to conduct a lie-detector test. A psychiatrist has also been engaged to help during interrogation.
The accused is to be presented in a local court on Thursday. Police will seek further custody to be able to find more material evidence.
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