Aftab Poonawala, the accused in the macabre killing of his girlfriend Shraddha Walkar in Delhi, was sent to police custody for another five days by a local court on Thursday evening. Police feared he would be attacked — lawyers held protest at the court — so he was permitted to be presented via video link from jail.
Police have been interrogating him since the arrest last Friday and got five days of custody that ended today. Custody extension was sought as some crucial evidence — such as Shraddha Walkar’s mobile phone and the knife he used to chop up her body — remains to be gathered.
Ahead of the 4 pm hearing, expecting that he’d be brought in, a large group of lawyers was seen outside the courtroom, shouting “hang him, hang him”. Some shouted, “Hang the jihadi.” The case has reignited debates on “love jihad”, a term the right wing uses to accuse Muslim men of “luring” Hindu women to convert them to Islam.
Aftab Poonawala and Shraddha Walkar, who’d met on dating app Bumble, had moved to Delhi only in mid-May this year after living together in their hometown Vasai near Mumbai for at least a year before that. After an argument barely four days after moving into a rented flat in Mehrauli, Aftab Poonwala strangled Shraddha Walkar, whose body he cut up into pieces after the murder in May, kept those in a fridge and dumped the pieces in a jungle over the next 18 days, police have said.
The crime was uncovered after Shraddha Walkar’s father, Vikas Walkar, who had not been in touch with her for over a year as he opposed the inter-faith relationship, went to the cops around a month ago as her friends told him she’d been out of touch with them too.
Police say his confession led them to the details, and evidence to corroborate the crime trail is being collected. However, legal experts point out that confession in police custody isn’t valid evidence unless made in front of a judicial officer.
The father told NDTV yesterday that Aftab Poonawala’s confessed in his presence. “The police asked him, ‘Do you know him’? He said, ‘Yes, he is Shraddha’s father’. Then at once, he started saying Shraddha is no more. I collapsed there. I could not hear any more. Then he was taken away. I was in no condition to hear it,” Vikas Walkar said.
Police have sought permission for a lie-detector test on Aftab. Reports of DNA tests to establish whether some body parts found in the forest are Shraddha’s will take 15 days, said the police.
But the knife or saw used to cut up the body has not yet been found. Most parts of her body are missing. Clothes worn by Aftab and Shraddha on the day of the murder have not been found either. Shraddha’s mobile phone remains untraced.
On the evidence list so far are bills to show he bought a knife and fridge on May 19, a day after the murder; bones found in the jungle; blood found in the kitchen; bank details of Rs 54,000 Aftab got from Shraddha’s account; call records and location data from phones; Shraddha’s bag from the flat; and her father and friends’ statements.