Did the alleged killers of the former staffer of the American Embassy School in New Delhi, Leena Sharma, take a clue from Ajay Devgn-starrer Drishyam to destroy evidence? It seems so. But this plot backfired and they were arrested on Saturday.
The murder accused trio tried to dispose of one of her two cellphones in a Jabalpur-bound train, but ultimately failed.
Like Drishyam protagonist, who stashed the murdered youth’s cellphone in a truck, Leena’s alleged killers tried to dispose of one of her two cellphones in a Jabalpur-bound train. The cellphone was spotted by a passenger who kept it after throwing away the SIM card in Piparia (Hoshangabad). Later the SIM was found by a man in Piparia on May 5, who inserted it into another phone set, automatically alerting Leena’s friend about something wrong having happened with Leena.
“The SIM card being used by someone in Piparia was one of the clues that guided the police to work on the premises that something wrong had happened to Leena,” said Hoshangabad SP AP Singh. The police, however, got the most clinching clue in this murder case on Friday afternoon when some villagers, who had seen Pradeep and his aides attacking Leena at the encroached agricultural plot in Dudadeh village on April 29 morning, approached police.
“We immediately picked Pradeep’s aides Gore Lal and Rajendar for questioning on Friday evening and they spilled the beans in two hours. After which Pradeep, Sohagpur block Congress chief, escaped to Bhopal, but was ultimately located in the state capital on Saturday. He was forced to return to Hoshangabad in the morning and later arrested,” a senior police officer in Sohagpur said.
While Pradeep claimed that his men attacked Leena with rods and stones as she had attacked him over the land dispute on April 29, the Hoshangabad SP said investigations so far strongly suggest that it was a pre-planned murder. “There are no marks of Leena attacking Pradeep. The manner in which her belongings were destroyed and her body was dumped in Kamati jungle (4 km from Dudadeh village) and an attempt was made to dump her cellphone in a train suggest that the murder was pre-planned,” he added. In addition, the act of spraying urea and salt on her body before burial to destroy evidence of murder also points that it was a pre-planned murder.
According to police, Pradeep, who had encroached upon Leena’s 10 acres land in Dudadeh, had first tried to coax her to drop plans for demarcating and fencing the land. But when he failed, he tried to win her trust. “On April 29, when she came for getting the land fenced, Pradeep along with aides first scared away the labourers and then provoked Leena to indulge in a heated dual, ultimately triggering her killing,” SDOP (Sohagpur) Arjun Uike said.
Pradeep tried to mislead the cops by informing them that Leena went to Piparia in a white car on April 29, but an old woman living near Leena’s house in Sohagpur town disclosed to police that she went in an auto-rickshaw to Dudadeh on the same day. After this, police zeroed in on Pradeep as the key suspect.
The accused trio was produced before a local court on Saturday, after which they were sent to police remand till May 16.
Cops to grill sister Hema, Pradeep’s wife
Police are planning to interrogate Leena Sharma’s sister Hema and prime accused Pradeep Sharma’s wife.
Sources within the Hoshangabad police told HT that there were several factors which indicate that Hema might be in the know of the murder plot hatched by a local Congress leader Pradeep Sharma, who was considered as an uncle by them.
Hema had also allegedly tried to persuade Leena not to go ahead with demarcation of the ancestral land on April 21 along with Pradeep and his wife. On May 8, the woman had suddenly left Sohagpur for Bangalore to meet her scientist husband, just when the police investigations into the case started gathering momentum.
According to police officials, she didn’t cooperate with cops who wanted to record her statements in the matter and allegedly used objectionable words for Leena while talking to the cops and Leena’s friends.
“It’s surprising that Hema who often rung the Dial 100 service for most trivial things, like searching nappies and anklet of her 17-month-old son, took seven days to report that her sister was missing,” said a police officer.
“Leena’s body will be handed over to Hema once she arrives from Bangalore. But we’ll also grill her to figure out any possibility about she being privy to the murder plot,” SP Hoshangabad AP Singh said.
Friends accuse police of botching probe
Friends of Leena Sharma, a former employee of US Embassy school in Delhi whose decomposed body was recovered on Saturday, almost 15 days after she went missing on April 29, have accused the Sohagpur police of botching the investigations.
In a post on the Facebook page dedicated to ‘Save Leena’ campaign, Leena’s friends have alleged that despite giving leads, Sohagpur police station in-charge Rajendra Burman did not act.