Nearly two months after Hyderabad techie Esther Anuhya went missing and was found murdered in Mumbai, city police on Monday claimed to have cracked the case with the arrest of a proclaimed offender, who allegedly made a failed attempt to rape the victim but later burnt her body partially.
Chandrabhan Sudam Sanap (28), who has several cases registered against him and working as a driver in Nashik, was apprehended from Kanjurmarg area in suburban Bhandup and placed under arrest on Monday, Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria said.
The accused was produced before a local court, which remanded him in police custody till March 15, he said.
Sanap is the same person who was spotted with Anuhya in CCTV footage at the Kurla railway terminus on January 5, the day she went missing, police said.
The victim's decomposed body was found off the Eastern Express Highway in Bhandup on January 16.
The 23-year-old victim, a native of Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh, was employed as assistant system engineer with IT major TCS at its office in suburban Goregaon.
After painstaking scrutiny of 36 CCTVs' footages at the railway station and grilling of about 2,500 people, investigators stumbled upon Sanap, who was picked up on Sunday night.
"Sanap confessed to the crime and claimed his initial conspiracy was only intended to rob her. The victim's trolley bag has been recovered," Maria said.
Explaining the chain of events that led to the murder, he said Sanap, who consumed alcohol a day before the incident, had early on January 5 began scouting for victims at Kurla railway terminus and surrounding areas so that he could steal their bags or mobile phones.
"He spotted this girl (Anuhya) sitting at railway station alone and offered to drop her in a taxi to Andheri for Rs 300. Sanap then took her to the taxi stand where the victim found that he had a two-wheeler and not the cab," Maria said.
As the victim expressed reluctance, Sanap told her to share his mobile and bike numbers with her relatives in a bid to gain her confidence, Maria said.
"The girl did not have talk time balance in her mobile and she just pretended to talking to her relatives, sharing Sanap's details. She then sat on his bike," he said.
The accused rode the bike to Eastern Express Highway when he informed her that there was not enough petrol in the two-wheeler. He then rode the bike to an isolated location on the pretext of finding a petrol pump, police said.
According to sources, the accused then attempted to sexually assault her. As she resisted, Sanap banged her head to the ground and strangled her with her stole before running away with her belongings.
The accused subsequently informed his friend Nadkishore Sahu, who owned the bike, police said.
"After sometime, the accused went to the spot to find the victim's mobile phone as he thought she had saved his number in it. He left without finding her phone. He reached the spot again for the second time with petrol and poured it on her legs before burning her. Because of this burn injuries were discovered below the waist," said an investigator.
The same day, the accused rushed to Nashik where he approached an astrologer, who warned Sanap of bad luck in future and told him to perform some prayer ritual at the religious town of Trimbakeshwar in Nashik. The next day, Sanap went to Trimbakeshwar, performed rituals and donated the victim's trolley bag to a beggar there.
Meanwhile, he changed his physical appearance by growing beard and applied 'tikka' -- a red dot of vermilion applied on the forehead. He shuttled between Kanjurmarg, where his ailing father stays, and Nashik, where he stayed with his third wife and a child, police said.
Sanap, a drunkard and a womaniser, used to work as a porter at Kurla railway terminus in 2007-08, but he sold the porter license for money required to meet bad habits, police added.
Photograph courtesy: Esther Anuhya's Facebook tribute page