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'Laila Khan was not a typical Bollywood struggler'

Last updated on: July 12, 2012 15:41 IST

'Laila Khan was not a typical Bollywood struggler'

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Vrushali Lad in Mumbai

The recent Laila Khan murder case is a story filled with enough intrigue and drama to excite crime novelists and Bollywood script writers, says Vrushali Lad

Laila Khan, 31, acted in only one Hindi film in her life, the adult film Wafaa, which became famous for being yesteryear superstar Rajesh Khanna's comeback film. After the film tanked at the box office, both Laila and Khanna went back to oblivion, but in the former's case, the story had a very tragic end.

Laila, her sisters Azmina and Zara, her mother Seleena, her brother Imran and cousin Aafreen, were reportedly killed by Seleena's third husband, Parvez Tak, a 30-year-old Kashmiri forest contractor, that Seleena had met at a Congress party function in Delhi four years ago.

As per Tak's confession to Mumbai police, he had nursed aspirations of acting in films, and Seleena had promised to launch him opposite Laila if he paid Rs 3.5 lakh. Tak told cops that he paid the money after taking a loan from a J&K bank and borrowing from his friends, but after he handed over the money and moved to Mumbai in 2008, he began to suspect that Seleena was not going to keep her word.

This, and his jealousy over Seleena's proximity to her ex-husband, prompted him to kill the family.

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Image: Laila Khan


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Laila's only Hindi film

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Not bagging any roles after the release of her solo film project, Wafaa in 2008, Laila was on 'the lookout for more roles', sources said, adding that Laila was not a typical Bollywood struggler.

"She had a lot of money, and also a lavish house in Mumbai. She owned expensive cars and several pieces of costly jewellery. Her mother's business (in garment export) was enough to sustain the entire family comfortably.Besides, they always had cousins and other relatives staying over from time to time, and the family was quite close," said a model who lives close to the Oshiwara apartment where Laila and her family stayed.

Laila would frequently travel to Dubai for work, the nature of which the cops are still trying to ascertain, but she did have links with several film and business personalities, they say. Seleena is also said to have known several film producers associated with B-grade projects, and would recommend strugglers to them. 

Two years ago, Laila married a Dubai-based businessman. However, she did not immediately start living with him; police say that she planned to move her entire family to Dubai.

This idea must have been the final straw for Tak, who was not included in the move and who saw that he would not be able to recover the money he had paid Seleena, apart from being embroiled in two cheating cases in Jammu & Kashmir.

'No film role and didn't return my money either'

In Wafaa, Laila's character arranges to have her much older husband (played by Khanna) killed whilst having an affair with her chauffeur. It was on the basis of this project that Seleena reportedly hooked Tak, promising to get him a role opposite her daughter.

Tak moved to Mumbai and started living with Seleena, and the two married the next year.

Police from Kishtwar, Jammu & Kashmir, had received complaints from the bank that Tak had borrowed money from, since he did not pay his EMIs and he was untraceable after a few months of taking the amount.

"During questioning, he said that he had planned to pay off all the loans once he got work in films. Besides, he married Seleena in the hope that she would help him repay the loans, but she refused to do so," said an official from the Mumbai Crime Branch.

"Later, Tak alleged that he repeatedly asked Seleena to return his money, seeing that she had not introduced him to any film producers. She refused to give him his money, and further, when he asked her to transfer one of her properties in his name in lieu of the money, she promptly assigned the power of attorney for all her assets in the name of her second husband, who was on good terms with her despite their divorce."

Tak realised he was well and truly trapped -- he was not going to recover his money from Seleena, and he couldn't return home without being arrested. "In the meantime, Laila got married and planned to move her family to Dubai. This would have left him in the lurch, which was when he decided to kill Seleena."

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Image: A still from Wafaa


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The night of the murders

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Laila and her family would frequently holiday at their farmhouse in Igatpuri, Maharashtra. On the morning of February 7, 2011, Laila and her siblings left for the farmhouse, while Seleena, Tak and Laila's cousin Afreen followed later, the same day.

A barbecue was planned for that evening, and the family partied late into the night.

At about 1 pm, Tak and Seleena started a loud argument, but this time, Tak was prepared to kill. "As per his confession, he struck her on the head with an iron rod, after which she collapsed. The killing was pre-meditated, since he had procured the iron rods and two knives before he reached the farmhouse," said a police official.

However, the family heard the commotion and rushed to the spot. Tak is said to have next assaulted Imran, who had seen his injured mother and attacked Tak.

"After Imran, Tak attacked the remaining women with rods and knives. He was assisted in the murders by the farmhouse watchman, Shabbir Hussein, who had been told of the plan earlier."

After all six had been killed, most of them with direct blows to their heads, Tak and Hussein hauled off the bodies to an open pit in the garden.

The pit had been dug up a few weeks ago to accommodate a new underground water tank for the house, but work had not progressed beyond the digging stage.

The two men dumped three bodies in the pit, covered them with a layer of tiles and stone blocks, and then put the remaining three bodies over the first layer. They covered the second layer of bodies with the blood-soaked pillows and bedsheets from the farmhouse.

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Image: A video grab showing Laila's farm house at Igatpuri


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On the run

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Tak and Hussein fled the crime scene and returned to Mumbai, to Laila's Oshiwara home.

"From there, he stole cash and valuables and stayed on for two days. Then the two went back to the farmhouse and set it on fire on November 10, to destroy any remaining evidence of the crime," police sources said.

After that, the two men went to J&K in two hired vehicles, one of which was a black Scorpio. On reaching, the vehicles were dumped at the side of the road and Tak made his way home. However, it would be a few months before police investigating the Scorpio, which bore a license plate number from Mumbai, traced the car and its last user to Tak, and he was arrested in connection with a cheating case in June 2012.

Tak had also been rumoured to have links with terror outfits, for which the J&K police had been looking for him for a while.

Meanwhile, a father waits...

In December 2011, Laila's father, Nadir Patel, thought something was amiss after he went to see his daughter several times since February and always found the house locked.

After repeated attempts to reach her on her mobile phone and asking relatives for information on the family's whereabouts, Patel finally lodged a missing persons' complaint at Oshiwara police station.

Even while the Mumbai cops were trying to trace Laila and her family, the J&K cops informed their counterparts in Mumbai in June this year that Tak, who was in their custody, had revealed during interrogation that he had killed one Seleena Khan and her family in Mumbai.

The case was taken up by the Mumbai Crime Branch and Tak was brought to Mumbai for questioning.

However, Tak's confessions changed almost daily. After first admitting that he had killed the family, he later said that all of them had fled to Dubai. "He kept changing details all the time, but finally he stuck to the story that he was not in touch with the family, but that Laila had taken them to Dubai."

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Image: Tak being brought in for questioning by the Mumbai police
Photographs: Sahil Salvi

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Cat o' nine tales

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The most tangled crimes are often solved by the most innocuous clues, and it was no different in this case. It was Laila's two cats that finally sealed Tak's fate.

Laila was known to carry her cats with her everywhere, even on vacations, and her Igatpuri neighbours had often noticed the handsome Persian cats with the family.

However, the neighbours were puzzled when in February, the two cats were found roaming the premises while the house appeared deserted. After the farmhouse burned down that month, the cats retreated to the woods to forage for food.

API Sanjay More, who was investigating Laila's disappearance from December 2010, also found this fact interesting. Curiously, by the time Tak was brought to Mumbai for questioning, More had been transferred to the Crime Branch and was part of the team investigating the case.

When More asked Tak why Laila would leave her beloved cats behind and go to Dubai without even seeking a shelter for them, Tak faltered in his story for the first time. Later, he confessed to killing the family and burying their bodies at the farmhouse.

Present status

Two days ago, a crime branch team took Tak to the spot where he said he had buried the bodies, and after an exhumation operation lasting over five hours, found six skeletons at the spot.

Forensic experts accompanying the team identified one of the skeletons to be that of a male, while the other five were females. The police also found some items of jewellery from the female skeletons.

The remains are now being put through gender and age verification tests at Mumbai's JJ Hospital, after which they will be subjected to DNA testing.

"The bodies bear skull fractures, but the male skeleton bears the most injury marks," confirmed Himanshu Roy, Joint Commissioner of police (crime), Mumbai. The police are also looking for Hussein, who is still on the run.


Image: Joint Commissioner of police (crime) Himanshu Roy displays the weapons used in the murder at a press conference in Mumbai
Photographs: Sahil Salvi

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