'She seems to have disappeared off the face of the planet after telling different people different things.'
The gripping second part of Savera R Someshwar/Rediff.com's report from the Sheena Bora murder trial.
Twenty one voice recordings were played over two days in Courtroom No 51 of the Mumbai civil and sessions courts.
Three people, connected by an alleged murder, spoke in the recordings. A son. His father. His father's wife.
Listening intently were the witness, three accused, a battery of lawyers, the judge, a few journalists, an author and young lawyers looking to learn courtroom skills.
With Rahul Mukerjea on the witness stand, the Sheena Bora Murder Trial which has been going on for over five years, has reached an important point.
Through the recordings, made in the days after Sheena Bora disappeared on April 24, 2012, Rahul is struggling to find out what happened.
Three years later, in 2015, Peter Mukerjea, his then wife Indrani Mukerjea, Indrani's ex-husband Sanjeev Khanna and a driver, Shyamvar Rai were arrested for Sheena murder.
Indrani told Rahul that she had managed to contacted Sheena Bora's boss -- this is in recording number four -- a Mr S Mukherjee, who told her Sheena had "communicated to him" that she would be on leave for a few days as she was "travelling".
The conversation then, in a bizarre twist, moves to Sheena's resignation.
"She hasn't officially resigned," Indrani tells Rahul, "Her boss needs her resignation to take her off the payroll. Papa has been thinking about what to do."
Later, in the same conversation, she tells Rahul has she has shared the "personal background" with Sheena's boss.
"The boy (that's me, Rahul laughs sardonically as he answers the prosecutor's question) has called up," she tells Rahul she told Sheena's boss. "We are concerned too."
Peter, in the fourth voice recording, tells his son he has contacted "Deven Bharti, chief of the crime branch, who had advised them not to file a missing person's case," which is what Rahul had wanted to do. Instead, says Peter, he said they would try to trace her phone.
Indrani joins the conversation and adds, "We have given the date range. They wanted your number. They also wanted to know who the last people she was in touch with were."
Later in the call she tells him, "If you suddenly receive a call, don't panic." It was a strange thing to say to someone trying to get information about his missing fiancee.
Sheena's boss, apparently, had also suggested to Indrani that they wait for 24 hours before filing a missing person report.
Rahul does not understand why they should wait, "It been four days!" he says, frustrated.
Bharti, a friend of Peter's who had helped him get his OCI card, had apparently -- as Peter told Rahul in voice recording number eight -- told him Sheena had an hour-long conversation with a Nishant Khurana at 11 am on April 25, 2012, the day after she was apparently murdered.
The call apparently began in Bandra and continued near Mumbai airport.
Rahul versus Indrani... and Indrani versus Rahul
In conversation 11, Rahul points out that -- if (then Mumbai police crime branch head) Deven Bharti's information is correct -- then Indrani and Sheena were at Mumbai airport at the same time since Indrani took the noon flight to Kolkata on April 25.
"They are not saying she was at the airport," Indrani says. "Just close to it."
"It's odd," Rahul insists.
Indrani loses her temper. "I could have not given you the information. We are giving the information we have got from Deven Bharti. That her phone was near the airport, she was talking to Nishant Khurana. I don't know if she had taken a flight or was meeting someone. Sheena had not come to the airport, I promise you that. You can either believe me or you don't."
She gets even more angry at the suggestion that she might have Sheena's phone. "How do I know that you have not collected her?"
Indrani is referring to her evening out with Sheena on April 24, 2012.
According to her, they met at Amarsons, a popular store in Bandra, north west Mumbai, "because Sheena wanted to buy a sari. After trying a few, she chose one. We then went to a jewellery store in Bandra, Notandas."
Then, since Indrani was hungry, they decided to dine at Royal China, a well-known Chinese restaurant in Bandra. Since the restaurant seemed shut -- Indrani says she called to make a booking, but no one answered -- they went to Taj Land's End, also in Bandra, instead since Sheena was clear they had to get back to Amarsons by 9.15 pm.
"She had an iced tea and a margarita. I had two margaritas. It's not possible that no one saw me at Royal China if I was there."
Indrani continues to defend herself, saying she was on call with multiple people after she dropped Sheena and that she had to get home since she was entertaining two guests, "one who left at 2 am; the other stayed till 8 am."
The overnight guest, she names him once, possibly accidentally, but otherwise continues to use the term guest, was Mikhail.
"Why," asks Indrani, "would I carry around Sheena's phone? I promise you on Vidhie and Papa that, around 9.15 pm or 9.30 pm, I dropped Sheena at Amarsons. I tried pinging her phone in the morning after I got up, but it was switched off. But I got a message that she was going to get a new number within a week and that she would be in touch."
"If she was wants to leave me," Rahul replies, "and that will make her happy, I am okay with that. But she seems to have disappeared off the face of the planet after telling different people different things."
Rahul is suspicious and believes Sheena may have met Indrani at the airport and flown with her to Kolkata.
Indrani hints that if Sheena had indeed flown to Kolkata, and she was smart enough, she may have done so under a different name.
To Rahul, that sounds unlikely. "You need ID, an e-ticket."
"But you don't need it at check-in," Indrani counters. "It's possible that she may have taken a later flight."
Rahul doesn't agree. He says that Sheena would need money to travel and her bank cards and passport, if she decided to go abroad, were at home with him.
At one point, when they talk about Indrani helping Sheena financially for her studies, the former asks, "Did she at any point say I had put conditions for the money?"
Earlier, in conversation number four, she tells Rahul, "Am just putting two and two together," she continues. "The only reason she contacted me was that she wanted money".
And adds that "she has not been in touch with me for a long time now" until she needed money.
Peter jumps to Indrani's defence as well. "Sheena has played her cards very carefully and fired her gun from Indrani's shoulder."
At bit later, Indrani says the same thing. "I was telling Papa I wish she had not contacted me. That she had plans to run away and was firing the gun from my shoulder."
And this happens more than a few times through the conversations, which are conducted on speakerphone. Many times, you hear Indrani whispering/talking to Peter in the background.
In the next conversation too, Indrani talks about the money she gave Sheena. "The moment she got the money, she disappeared."
In conversation 16, Rahul says he is literally at his wit's end and will remain that way until he hears Sheena's voice.
In the very next conversation, Peter tells Rahul that Sheena called Indrani and that Peter spoke to her as well. "She said, Hi Jiju, I'm fine'."
When Rahul asked for the number, Peter said the call came on Indrani's phone so he didn't see the number, but that the resignation would be sent in due course.
At which point Rahul loses his temper. "Indrani has her number, Papa. We just got engaged. Use your dimaag, man. Papa, I love you. But you are really pushing me."
The Nagpur angle
In conversation number four, Indrani brings up a new angle, "Papa told me she said something about Nagpur," she says and talks about a "Nagpur-based guy who owns a Bentley" and whom Sheena was interested in pursuing a relationship with.
The hint, here, seems to be that Sheena was on the lookout for a wealthy boyfriend.
In conversation number seven, Peter brings up the "Bentley guy". He tells his son that "there's a new guy in Sheena's life who's from Nagpur and she wants Indrani to meet him".
Indrani, too, brings it up randomly a few times; each time, it riles Rahul.
Sheena, says Rahul, had been talking to him about property that Indrani was considering buying there and that Indrani didn't want Sheena to tell Rahul about it.
"Why," he asks Peter, "would she mention Nagpur to me if she is meeting another guy there?
"Think about it," his voice gets angrier and angrier. Apparently, "she wants to marry the guy and the most important thing is the fact that he has a bloody Bentley," which, for some reason, Rahul finds necessary to explain to the judge later is a very expensive car.
Indrani jumps in pointing out that she was "in Goa, property-hunting, but has stopped because she is worried about Sheena".
Later, in conversation 11, she adds, "Why would anyone want to invest in Nagpur? Why not Mumbai? I've never been to Nagpur. I would think of buying in Kolkata or Mumbai or Goa."
She again references the Bentley, saying Sheena had "emailed her" asking her to come with her to Nagpur to meet the Bentley owner "she wanted to marry".
And the Delhi one
Conversation number eight brought in a new potential boyfriend -- Nishant Khurana from Delhi.
Indian Police Service officer Deven Bharti, who Peter says is "a friend and the crime branch head", had apparently said there was an hour-long call from Sheena's phone to a Nishant Khurana in Delhi.
"I knew that it couldn't be true," says Rahul. "Nishant was a friend of Sheena's friend, Pranami. Sheena didn't know him well enough to have his number or have such a long conversation with him."
Yet, as the conversation progresses Rahul seems convinced Sheena had moved on. "She's finished with me and wants to move ahead. Just wanted to make sure she is okay." He apologises to Peter for losing his cool.
But then, Rahul gets in touch with Pranami who seemed shocked that Sheena was in touch with Nishant. "She doesn't know Nishant that well," Pranami tells Rahul.
Rahul's doubts come racing back.
By conversation number nine, Rahul wants to speak to Bharti himself. And he wants Nishant's number so that he can verify it with Pranami.
"He's a senior guy," Peter tells Rahul. "I'm not going to ask him for a number. No question, beta. Absolutely not. Trying to find Sheena was okay so I asked for a favour."
The fact that Rahul has heard about Nishant seems to convince Peter that Sheena has moved on. "The name was given to me by the senior-most police officer in the city. He wouldn't have pulled it out of a phone book. If I ask him for the number, it will look like I don't trust him.
Rahul also says that though he repeatedly asked for Bharti's number, and Peter assured him that Bharti would speak to him since he was Peter's son, he never got the number.
By conversation 11, he's finding the whole thing "fishy. Something's not right. It is not likely that Nishant Khurana has a love interest in Sheena or even has her number."
Peter tells him, "The have been several calls from this number to Sheena's phone. It was not an isolated call."
Rahul sounds shocked and suspicious. "Now you are telling me this was not an isolated one-hour call from the airport. That there were conversations earlier."
Sheena's brother, Mikhail
In conversation number four, Indrani tells Rahul that that though she didn't want to alarm Mikhail -- her son and Sheena's brother -- she did call him and ask him about Sheena's whereabouts.
Rahul got a gist of what transpired when he called Kishore, the house help at Indrani's home in Guwahati, to find out if Sheena had been in touch. "She (Indrani) had called and told Mikhail that you had a fight with Sheena because she wanted to go somewhere and you was not letting her go," Kishore told Rahul.
In a conversation punctuated with a lot of 'ai hais' from Rahul, he tells Kishore that he believes Indrani has done something to Sheena.
In his first appearance on June 10, he had said it never occurred to him that her life may have been in danger.
Is Rahul afraid of Indrani?
Peter, in voice recording number seven, is annoyed that Rahul seems to be holding back information since he had met Sheena's boss but not shared the details. Peter insists that they have to be "on the same page" to solve this problem.
Rahul is angrier. "Someone (Indrani) knows something about Sheena being in Nagpur and they better bring her back."
In the same conversation, Indrani -- who has so far been adamant about not filing a missing person complaint -- says she is worried and is considering filing one. She wants Rahul's address.
"We can't file a missing person complaint without a home address and an office address," she tells him.
But Rahul is wary.
When he refused to give the address of the home he shares with Sheena and suggests she use the office address, he tells the judge, she snapped and said she needed it to file a police complaint.
"Can I also say I was fearful of giving her the home address since I also lived there?"
The Rahul-Sheena relationship
"We were engaged," he tells Peter in conversation 11. "We were making plans to get married. She wanted to do her MBA (Sheena had been placed at the Oxford Brooks University, he said in the June 10 hearing) and she thought Indrani could help her financially."
Part 3: More Questions Than Answers