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Mumbai teen murder: Accused's day in court

August 21, 2007 19:46 IST

Arun Bhatt is standing outside the Andheri court in Mumbai in the heat, waiting for his son Ayush.

He isn't alone: every television channel and newspaper has a representative present, jostling in their rush to find out about the 18-year-old, one of three youngsters taken into custody in the Adnan Patrawala murder case.

Sixteen-year-old Adnan, son of Mumbai builder Aslam Patrawala, was abducted on Sunday afternoon and his body was found in Navi Mumbai on Monday night.

The police have arrested three boys allegedly friends of Adnan -- Bhatt, Khimmesh Ambavat (17) and Sujith Nair (28).

Media reports speculate that the trio kidnapped the affluent Adnan and made a Rs 2 crore ransom demand, but extensive media hype surrounding the case led them to panic and kill the victim.

Sources say the three boys have confessed to the authorities, but there has been no official statement from the police.

Arun Bhatt, an orchestra-director living in Kandivali East, is convinced of his son's innocence.

"Sure he knew Adnan, and was very fond of him. I had never met Adnan, but I had heard the boys were good friends. In fact, I'd told Ayush to call Adnan over because I'd heard he was a rash driver, and I wanted to talk to him," Arun Bhatt says.

Arun Bhatt says the police came to their residence on Sunday afternoon at about 3.30 pm. Ayush was not home, but came home in an hour or so when called to do so, and they were with the police till about 11 pm, after which the police asked to take Ayush with them, "to aid with the police investigations."

The police has maintained a strict silence on the matter, and it is only at the Andheri court -- where reporters and cameramen far outweigh lawyers today -- that we finally get to see the boys.

The police van pulls up, and amid the usual roughhanded fracas with some television crew, the accused are led -- black-masked like dark Klansmen -- into the court.

When produced before the judge, the masks are removed and we see three flustered faces, sweaty and scared.

Khimmesh's lawyer Pradeep A Shetty -- armed with birth certificate, marksheets and what looks peculiarly enough like an underage driving license -- establishes that his client is 17, and therefore, juvenile.

The judge rules Khimmesh be produced in the juvenile court -- likely to take place only Wednesday morning -- and that the other two accused stay in police custody till August 28.

Shetty refused to comment on the reports of his client, saying they are waiting for post-mortem results confirming what time the murder took place, and that Khimmesh has been in custody since 7 pm on Sunday.

Vikram Patil, advocate for the eldest of the boys, Sujith -- who works in an IBM BPO -- confirms that they are charged under four counts of the Indian Penal Code: Sections 387) Putting person in fear of death or of grievous hurt, in order to commit extortion; 364) Kidnapping or abducting in order to murder; 201) Causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender and 302) Punishment for murder.

At the end of the day, as the boys are remasked and bundled back on their knees in a police van, Arun Bhatt stands next to Ayush's lawyer Narendra Nalawde and is convinced that details for the time of death will act as an alibi for his son.

"And I was with the police at the time, with Inspector Dalvi of the Crime Branch. I know he didn't do it," Arun Bhatt says.

The media, meanwhile, is on the hunt for 'Angel', an unnamed Orkut-user using pictures of Avril Lavigne on her profile.

'She' exchanged several messages with Adnan over the last few weeks, and is being targeted as a decoy used to lure Adnan out into the open.

Till the police make an official statement, it's all speculation. Angel, receiving hate messages by the thousand, has changed her Orkut-name to *MA SWEAR ME NOT D KILLER OR ELSE I'LL DIE*, and the only clue to her identity -- assuming Angel is indeed a girl -- could be with Arun Bhatt, who says two kids accompanied the police to their house, identified as Adnan's friends.

"They didn't look like college kids. They were older," Arun Bhatt says. "Adil, the boy, could still have been in college. But the girl, Afreen, was much older, at least 25." He also feels she was too well-dressed, with make-up in place, to be in college. "She looked more like a model."

Raja Sen in Mumbai