The Sheena Bora Case
The murder of twenty-five year old Sheena Bora is a spine-chilling reminder of our times and how greed and ambition clearly dictate our relationships. Apart from the brutality and meticulous planning of the murder in April 2012, Indrani Mukerjea, the main accused, also managed to keep it under wraps for three long years, making everyone believe that Sheena had shifted to the US and did not want to be in touch with anyone. It was a tip-off from an anonymous source that the case came into light in August 2015 and continued to make headlines with the arrest of Indrani, her former husband Sanjeev Khanna and her driver, to finally the arrest of her second husband Peter Mukerjea.
This is just the beginning of the trial. A long battle awaits the high-profile Mukerjeas as they will walk down the maze of the legal system, the days of hearings and the nights of suspense, the media shutterbugs and the ignominy of jail – hoping for a release, praying for an absolution – that may or may not await them at the end.
Along with a detailed chronology of days in 2012 when Sheena first disappeared and the subsequent web of lies created by Indrani to make people close to her believe in her story, to the exhuming of Sheena’s remains from Raigad district in 2015, to the subsequent arrest and interrogation by the CBI, the book looks at the main characters, circumstances, and also the trail of money in Sheena’s account in Singapore that may have a link to the brutal murder.
Read an excerpt from the book –
24 April, 2012
It was yet another birthday of Sachin Tendulkar. Team India had just won the ICC World Cup the previous year and the master blaster was on an all-time career high. Banners and festoons hailing Mumbai’s wonder boy flooded the city as Mumbaikars celebrated; prayers too were offered by ardent fans at the Siddhivinayak Temple.
India’s Maximum City comes out more alive in the evening. The evening of 24 April was no different. In Bandra’s Linking Road it was business as usual — hawkers soliciting customers; dazzling showrooms showcasing expensive clothes and fancy footwear, arranged to attract the evening shoppers out for a stroll. It was summer, and humidity was soaring. Still, shoppers were not deterred from hitting the roads, with many parking themselves briefly in front of the showrooms; if not real shopping, why not have fun with window shopping?!
In the entire bustle that was going on, at one corner of the crowded road there stood two men and a woman who were waiting for someone. They looked preoccupied and were almost inattentive to their surroundings. Nobody in the crowd would have known who they were or the conspiracy that they had hatched and were about to execute. Some present in the crowd may now recollect the vaguely familiar face of Indrani Mukerjea who was at the Linking Road with her two accomplices, gathered to trap her daughter and eliminate her. Among the partners in crime were Indrani’s ex-husband Sanjeev Khanna and her driver Shyamvar Rai.
Sheena meanwhile had decided to leave office early that day to get ready for dinner. Rahul picked her up from her office in Andheri around 3.30pm and drove back home for her to freshen up. Indrani called Sheena in the evening, offering to buy her a diamond ring and a sari before they set out for dinner. Sheena was asked to reach near Amarsons, the famous fashion and lifestyle emporium in Bandra.
Shyamvar Rai in his detailed statement to Khar police officials said that Indrani, on the way to the dinner meeting, had told him that Sheena was demanding a three-bedroom-hall flat in the prominent Pali Hill area of Bandra, a car and a ring. “I have called Sheena on the pretext of buying her the ring today and hence she is ready to meet me,” Rai said in his statement, quoting Indrani, who also asked him to drive fast saying that Sheena and Khanna may reach before them. Rai took the Bandra–Worli Sea Link, a cable-stayed bridge with pre-stressed concrete–steel viaducts on either side that links Bandra in the western suburbs with Worli in South Mumbai.
In another part of Mumbai — Marol area of suburban Andheri — that is roughly 18km away, Rahul took out his Maruti Alto from the parking lot of his building with Sheena sitting next to him. The two had no clue that this would be her last ride in Rahul’s car, and she would not come back to the home where the couple shared many memories. Indrani, at the other end, was desperate as the final stage of her plan was taking shape, and she was not willing to take any chance. In his statement, Rahul said that while he was driving towards Bandra, Indrani and Sheena were on the phone. Sheena was telling Indrani about where they had reached and how much time they would take to reach the destination. Though Rahul could not hear what Indrani was saying, it seemed to him that she was anxious about when Sheena would reach. Indrani wanted to make sure that Sheena didn’t change her mind and reach as per schedule because she had worked hard for this day, and any change in it would mean revising the plan all over again.
It was around 6.40pm when they reached near Amarsons, and Rahul stopped the car to look for a parking space, another challenge for any vehicle-owner in Mumbai. While parking, Rahul noticed a metallic grey-coloured Opel Optra car parked on the roadside near Amarsons. He saw a woman and a man sitting inside and recognised Indrani and Rai. He also saw another man smoking outside the car. What Rahul saw could easily be identified with many scenes from Bollywood thrillers — would-be assassins lurking around a corner, the unsuspecting target conveniently walking into their trap. Had Rahul even remotely sensed anything, he would not have left Sheena alone. But the plan was scripted by Indrani who had left not a single piece amiss that could alert anyone. Seeing Rai, who was his father’s trusted driver, also in the group, Rahul had nothing to worry about and he dropped Sheena outside Amarsons and drove back home.
Indrani welcomed Sheena with open arms and a delicate hug, a common practice of the high-profile sections of the Mumbai population, a marker of the Page Three culture that pervades the city. Indrani offered water to Sheena who took a few sips; the younger woman had no clue that it was spiked and her own mother had numbered the hours of her life. They now headed towards Amarsons to buy the sari. Indrani did not take Sheena to the jeweller as the diamond ring was only a bait and once dead, the ring would be of no use to Sheena. The ring was the carrot to lure her into the trap.
As the sedative needed some time to kick in, Indrani kept Sheena busy looking at saris. About half an hour later, they returned with Sheena carrying the bag of sari she was gifted by her mother. They proceeded in the car that Indrani had hired for the execution of the plan. Khanna was sitting next to Rai. Sheena knew him well as he was Vidhie’s father and, hence, there was no question asked about his presence. Indrani and Sheena sat at the back.
Indrani instructed Rai to take the car towards Pali Hill, the address of some leading Bollywood personalities, occasionally thronged by tourists and sometimes by Mumbai residents themselves to have a glimpse of their favourite stars. The two sat at the back, chatting animatedly till Indrani noticed the drugged water making its effect. Sheena soon started slurring and became drowsy. Within minutes, she closed her eyes.
The plan was now reaching its climax.
Indrani instructed Rai to take the car to a quiet lane where they could stop. Bandra, though a bustling shopping area and a tourist attraction, has some lanes which are desolate, even during the day. They found one such lane and the car came to a slow halt. The moment it stopped, Khanna got down and shifted to the back seat next to Sheena. Indrani and he took a quick look of the deserted lane, ensuring nobody was watching them. The timing was crucial — every single moment counted now as the effect of the medicine could fade away or a passer-by could intrude upon such a well laid-out plan.
Rai turned back and gagged Sheena while Khanna roughly pulled her hair. Indrani, who was till now a paragon of motherly virtues, went down to business. In his later statement to the CBI court, Rai narrated the following: Indrani sat on Sheena’s lap to position herself comfortably to strangle her. The jolt of the physical shock woke up Sheena with a jerk, and she started making desperate attempts to get out of the clutches of her three assailants. She was struggling, shaking and gasping for breath. But she was a lone girl, fighting against two men who were much more powerful. Sheena still tried hard and bit Rai’s right thumb which started bleeding. The driver lost his grip and reeled under the pain. All attempts made by Sheena though turned futile, and she collapsed against the united attack.
Sheena, thus, was strangled to death by her own mother.
After making sure that she was no longer breathing, Khanna returned to the front seat, and Rai started driving towards the busy road of the suburbs. Sheena’s body was made to sit in such a way that it would not raise any suspicion. And in Mumbai, a city that stops for no one, this is not too difficult to achieve as passersby would rarely give a second glance to a moving vehicle. A few minutes later, Khanna got down from the car and left for his hotel in Worli while Indrani proceeded towards Taj Lands End. “Three BHK flat Sheena ko mil gaya,” (Sheena got the three BHK flat), she kept muttering in the car while sitting on her dead daughter’s face.
In an attempt to leave a false trail, Indrani had used Sheena’s phone a few minutes earlier to message Rahul that they were going to the Taj. Hence, after the killing, Indrani visited the hotel with Sheena’s body and her phone to prove their mobile phone location. This was something that she repeatedly used later in her conversations with Rahul when he kept insisting about Sheena’s disappearance.
Before going inside the hotel, Indrani instructed Rai to park the vehicle, lock it and stand at a little distance to avoid any suspicion. He was also asked to keep constant watch to ensure that nobody peeked into the car in which Sheena was lying dead on the back seat. About ten to 15 minutes later, Indrani returned and the car now moved towards Marlow where lay the uphill task of keeping Sheena’s body for the night. On the way, they picked up Khanna from Worli.
Marlow is a five-storey building situated in Worli, the heart of Mumbai, which is dotted with many landmark towers and is the address of a number of who’s who of the city. The building is situated just opposite the Mumbai Police traffic headquarters and the Mumbai Police officers’ mess is also a few metres away. This high-profile location could have been reason enough to dissuade anybody from taking a body inside the building. But Indrani was not to be discouraged by such mundane practicalities; this premeditated murder was the solution to the monetary and property dispute tangle that she was confronting at that time, and the mere presence of a few policemen in their mess was not definitely a deterrent.
On reaching Marlow, Rai parked the car in front of the garage that Indrani owned. The building, built a few decades ago, had some closed garages, a rare thing now. Though each garage had enough space to park in a car, the one owned by Indrani had less space as it was once used as a makeshift office which was later shut when society members objected to its commercial use. The garage still had some wooden fittings which made the space smaller and hence the entire car could not be parked inside.
What happened next is an inspiration even for a seasoned criminal. Indrani and Khanna stuffed Sheena’s body in a bag that Indrani had already kept in the boot. Rai, who was all this while keeping a watch to ensure secrecy, helped Khanna take out the bag with Sheena’s body in it. The garage was opened only when the three were ready to take Sheena’s body inside and dump it.
Surprisingly, the entire act went unnoticed despite a few servants’ quarters situated on the ground floor. However, posh sections of Mumbai city are known to be quiet where residents barely interact and are least interested in what is happening around them in the neighbourhood. They live in a world and a bubble of their own, rarely punctuated by external incidents. Even servants and their families are expected to be reticent and maintain decorum. The presence of the Mumbai traffic police headquarters and the police officers’ mess a stone’s throw away too failed to deter Indrani from taking the risk.
Indrani and Khanna decided to meet early in the morning to wrap up the final part of the crime. Khanna went back to his hotel for the night while Rai went to the driver’s room.
Nothing more happened that night. The perpetrators of a heinous crime called it off for the day.
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