Eight months after the murder of 25-year-old Neeraj Grover, the creative head at production house Synergy Adlabs, charges will be framed against Kannada film actress Maria Susairaj (27) and her naval officer fiancé Lieutenant ML Jerome Mathew (25) on January 6.
The framing of the charges is the first step in the trial.
Till date, Susairaj has maintained that Jerome killed Grover and that she tried to intervene. She has also tried to portray herself as a victim — in her confessional statement she has said that she was raped twice by Jerome.
The police, however, have discarded her claim and booked both of them for killing Grover.
Only after January 6 will it be clear if Susairaj will be charged with murder or just for conspiracy to murder.
According to the prosecution, Mathew, an aeronautical engineer posted at Kochi Naval Base and Susairaj, who has acted in four Kannada movies, killed Grover on May 7 at her flat in Solitaire Apartments, Chincholi Bunder Road. The duo then cut his body into pieces and took it to an isolated spot in Manor in Thane, where they burnt it.
A day later, Susairaj told a friend that Grover had forgotten his phone at her flat and had not returned to collect it. The same day, she was present at Malad station when a missing complaint was filed.
For a fortnight, she maintained that Grover had come to her flat on the night of May 6 and left after midnight. But she broke down after persistent questioning, admitting that she and Jerome killed Grover and destroyed his body.
Following her confession, Susairaj was arrested on May 21, her fiancé a day later. The police dug out Grover’s remains after she showed them the spot.
The Kannada actress confessed before a magistrate on May 28, narrating the incident. In her statement, she said Grover had visited her in the night and was behaving funny. She expected him to leave after dinner, but allowed him to stay after he requested her. She also spoke with Jerome, who was in Kochi, on the phone, and told him that Grover was in her flat.
The next morning, as per her statement, she found Jerome at her door. He entered the flat, started hitting Grover and stabbed him several times. As she tried to prevent the fight, Susairaj claimed, she too was injured.
The police have charged the duo under Section 120(B) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for conspiring to kill Grover, under section 302 of the IPC for killing him, under section 201 of the IPC for destroying evidence and section 34 of IPC for common intention.
The police have lined up 96 witnesses, all of whom identified Susairaj and Jerome in the identification parade. The list includes two Navy officers, those who saw Jerome go to Solitaire Apartments, the mall staff who saw Susairaj purchase knives and six friends of Susairaj and Grover — including the choreographer who provided the car used to dispose Grover’s body — among others.
The witnesses link the presence of the accused at the scene of the crime. The navy officer is a witness as Jerome explained his absence from the Kochi naval base by saying he went to visit Susairaj on the morning of May 7.
The police have proposed charges of murder, conspiring to murder and destroying evidence. Though there is believed to be enough evidence to prove the case of destroying evidence, murder will have to be proved through circumstantial evidence, said an officer linked with the case.