Years of twists and turns, suspicious evidence, and prominent personalities have made these murders India’s most extraordinary investigations.
This week, Indrani Mukerjea was arrested for the murder of her sister Sheena Bora in 2012. A bizarre twist to the murder mystery – Sheena was the daughter, and not the sister of the wife of top TV honcho Peter Mukerjea.
This case is sensational for two reasons: the people involved and the way in which the alleged killers covered their tracks and escaped all suspicion for three years. The case would have remained one more of Mumbai Police’s unsolved cases had an informer not tipped off the cops about the murder that occurred three years ago. He told cops that he had information about the murder of Sheena Bora that occurred in 2012 and could also lead them to the murderer and the victim’s body. Khar cops picked up Mukerjea’s driver a few days ago based on this information and started grilling him and he confessed to having murdered Bora at Mukerjea’s behest. He also told the cops that he dumped Bora’s body in the forests of Raigad. Mumbai cops then got in touch with their counterparts in Raigad, who confirmed that the remains of an unknown woman were found from the same spot. Khar police arrested the driver and then, based on his confession, asked Mukerjea to present herself for questioning on Tuesday. She was arrested after a three-hour grilling session.
Both of them were produced in the Bandra Metropolitan Magistrate’s court on Tuesday and cops got their custody till August 31. Both have been booked under Sections 302 (murder), 363 (kidnapping) and 201 (destroying evidence) of the Indian Penal Code.
Sunanda Pushkar, wife of Indian diplomat and politician Shashi Tharoor. A day after a Twitter controversy in which she accused Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar of stalking her husband, she was found dead in room 345 of Delhi’s Leela Palace hotel. Shashi discovered her body, and assumed she was asleep. It was only when she did not ‘wake up’ that he informed the police, who recovered the body and had it send for postmortem. While initial reports cited suicide, All India Institute of Medical Sciences doctors claimed injury marks, followed by death of drug overdose. On January 6, 2015, Delhi Police reported that Sunanda was murdered.
The investigation of 14-year-old Aarushi Talwar’s murder, who was found with her throat slit, presented years of twists and turns. While the domestic help, Hemraj was initially accused, the body of their Nepalese domestic help was also found within days. A long drawn out investigation saw confusion over evidence, accusations of her parents Rajesh and Nupur Talwar misleading investigators, and a dramatic trial by media (and now a Bollywood movie featuring Irrfan Khan), the court eventually ruled the parents guilty.
“No One Killed Jessica” read the 2006 headline of a news story when the accused, Manu Sharma, was acquitted of his involvement in the murder of Jessica Lal. He shot Jessica dead after she refused to serve him liquor, as the bar had run out of alcohol.
Despite the case involving several prominent people (including a former Minister, a politician, and and a prominent socialite), public outrage changed how the judiciary approached the matter. Intensive media coverage and ensuing protests lead to the Delhi High Court taking up the matter after Manu Sharma had been pronounced innocent. After 25 days of daily hearing, the Delhi High Court overturned the judgement, finding Manu Sharma found guilty.
Surinder Koli (L) was the domestic help of Moninder Singh Pandher (R), a businessman from Noida. In 2006, they were both arrested in connection with the discovery of skulls of missing children in the Nithari village, on the outskirts of Noida. The case was a topic of discussion in every household due to the huge media furor over what was really going on. There were accusations of rape, cannibalism, pedophilia, sodomy and even organ trafficking. As of now, Surinder Koli has been found guilty of 5 homicides and is on death row, while Pandher awaits his fate with 11 other unsolved murders under the same investigation.
Nitish Katara was a 25-year-old business executive in Delhi who was murdered in 2002, by Vikas Yadav, the scion of influential criminal-politician D. P. Yadav. Nitish had fallen in love with his classmate, Bharti Yadav (Vikas’ sister) at the Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad. Nitish had been murdered after several threats to separate from Bharti. His body was found beside a highway, battered to death with a hammer, covered in diesel and set aflame, days after the couple attended a wedding. According to testimony, Katara had been taken for a drive by Vikas and Vishal, Bharti’s brothers, and was never seen alive again. According to the trial court’s ruling, Nitish’s murder was found to be an honour killing as the Yadav family found him an unworthy suitor to Bharti.
Born in Saigon, Vietnam, ‘The Serpent’, as the world knows him, is probably the most popular serial killer of India. He is very well read and extremely suave, which helped him in taking his victims (between 12-24 western tourists) into confidence before drugging and killing them. One of his first victims was Vitali Hakim, whose burnt body was found on the road right outside the Pattaya resort he was staying at. After this, Dutch students Henk Bintanja, and his fiancée Cornelia Hemker were invited to Thailand after meeting Sobhraj in Hong Kong. They, like so many others, were poisoned by Sobhraj, who then nurtured them back to health in order to gain their trust. Around the same time entered Charmayne Carrou, the girlfriend of Vitali Hakim, in the city to investigate her boyfriend’s disappearance. Fearing that he will be found out, Charles along with his accomplice, Ajay Chowdhury, murdered the Dutch couple. Their bodies were found strangled and burnt on 16 December 1975. Soon after, Carrou was found drowned, wearing a similar-styled swimsuit to one of Sobhraj’s earlier victims, Teresa Knowlton. Sobhraj would later get the nickname “The Bikini Killer.”
No, she has nothing in common with Cyanide Mohan, except for the cyanide element of course. Cyanide Mallika a.k.a K. D. Kempamma is considered to ‘India’s first female serial killer’. She would choose her victims from among female devotees near temples. Posing as a deeply pious woman, well versed with all the religious rituals, she would befriend well-to-do women. Once she gained the confidence of a woman, she would call her to a temple that was far away from the would-be victim’s house. She would advise the woman to be dressed in all her finery, including jewelry, to appease the gods. At the temple, Mallika would pretend to perform a prayer before telling the woman to drink holy water or eat prasad that would be laced with cyanide. Known to have killed 6 women like this, she was given a death penalty in 2010, which was later reduced to life imprisonment in 2012.
A victim of the horrifying “Tandoor murder case”, Naina Sahni was killed by her husband, and then had the body chopped up and put in a tandoor (clay oven) at a Delhi restaurant, to dispose of the evidence. Her husband, Congress MLA Sushil Sharma, was convicted for the murder 18 years later. According to findings, Sharma had killed his wife after finding her talking to her close friend Matloob Karim on the phone, while drinking alcohol.