An 81-year-old woman was strangled and her body set ablaze, allegedly by a domestic help, in south Delhi’s posh Greater Kailash-II on Monday evening, police said.
The victim, Rekha Duggal, was the widow of senior journalist KK Duggal and used to live alone on the ground floor flat of a four-storeyed building in S-block, GK Part-II. The flat on the first floor belonged to her second daughter but she lived at Press Enclave in south Delhi.
Rekha’s son-in-law, Man Mohan, a senior journalist with an English newspaper, told HT that the crime came to light at about 9pm when her neighbour Saroj Prakash telephoned him to inform that his mother-in-law was missing from the house.
“Saroj Prakash told me that it was Neeraj, the domestic help of my mother-in-law, who informed her that she was missing from the house. By the time I reached there with my wife Sadhna Mohan and younger son, the police had already arrived and were looking for my mother-in-law. Since she daily used to go for a walk in the nearby park at 6pm, we searched for her in the park as well,” said Mohan.
They looked around, including the ground-floor flat where she used to live, for about an hour. They then went to the first-floor flat. “The first floor was gifted to us by her. My wife opened the main door using the spare keys and found it engulfed with smoke. We thought a fire broke out due to a short circuit and immediately called the fire department,” added Mohan.
Fire fighters arrived and found Rekha’s semi-burnt body lying on the bed in the bedroom. She was rushed to Safdarjung Hospital where doctors pronounced her dead on arrival. Everybody, including the police, initially believed Rekha died due to suffocation. But doctors said Rekha died due to strangulation. A burnt dupatta was found wrapped around her neck.
P Karunakaran, DCP (southeast), said, “The needle of suspicion pointed at the involvement of Neeraj in the murder case and he was detained. He was interrogated and he confessed to his crime. He said he killed her in a fit of rage as Rekha used to constantly scold him over petty matters.”
After strangling her, Neeraj got worried and set her body on fire to mislead the police. Neeraj had been employed seven months ago on the reference of some relatives.
Rekha’s husband had retired as editor from a national news agency. She was also among the first batch of women students to get a degree in journalism from Punjab University in 1952.