Police struggled through Thursday to extract information from former media tycoon Indrani Mukerjea on her daughter Sheena Bora's murder after she repeatedly changed her statement during efforts to unravel a crime that has transfixed the nation.
Mumbai police commissioner Rakesh Maria, best known for cracking the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, personally questioned Indrani, but sources said she was evasive and even demanded her lawyer be present during the process. Police officials have denied her plea for now.
Maria told a press conference the investigation was moving swiftly and police had a fair idea of the motive behind the murder as they took into custody Sheena's stepfather Sanjeev Khanna and questioned former Star India CEO Peter Mukerjea's son Rahul, who was in a relationship with the victim.
From power woman to murder accused: Rise, rise and fall of Indrani
"Indrani has proved to be a tough nut to crack even for a team of experienced interrogators as she has been skillfully answering the questions. She has been curt with her replies and this forced investigators to confront her with questions that emerged from the statement of Peter Mukerjea's younger son, Rahul," said a police officer.
Indrani, her driver and Sanjeev allegedly abducted Sheena three years ago, strangulated her in a car, burnt the body and then dumped the remains in the thick forests of Maharashtra's Raigad district.
Maria, who questioned Indrani for over nine hours, said investigations revealed Sheena's resignation letter to her employer and a letter to her landlord cancelling her lease agreement were forged. Both documents were sent after her death.
No one raised an alarm for three years Sheena was missing
Sources say investigators are pursuing several lines of inquiry including the possibility of a financial dispute, an honour killing or fears of Sheena exposing her real relationship with Indrani of daughter and mother being the motive for the murder.
Police said it was only after Indrani saw her driver in custody that she broke down and accepted Sheena was her daughter, and that she was involved in her murder.
The driver, Shyam Rai, in his statement reportedly laid bare details of the murky plot and police could now recommend he be made an approver in the case before a trial court, officials close to the investigation said.
Excerpts from his statement accessed by HT revealed the murder was plotted by Indrani who took him on a reconnaissance of the place where the body was to be dumped a day before the murder on April 24, 2012. The driver said the murder was executed by Sanjeev Khanna.
Sheena murder: Indrani plotted, Khanna killed, driver tells cops
Officials are trying to corroborate almost every word spoken by Indrani, beginning from her relationships with at least four people: her father, UK Bora, ex-husbands Siddhartha Das and Sanjeev Khanna, as well as her current husband, Peter Mukerjea.
Sources told Hindustan Times that Sanjeev, who primarily ran a cable business in Kolkata, received a substantial amount of money from undisclosed sources soon after the murder.
Rahul Mukerjea gave police details of his affair with Sheena and his turbulent relationship with his stepmother, Indrani. He also mentioned how he had dropped off Sheena in Mumbai's Bandra area the day she disappeared and how the victim spoke to him about her unwillingness to meet her mother.
He also told officials Sheena had revealed to him that Indrani was her biological mother though they were widely believed to be sisters.
Sheena murder mystery: Could Indrani have killed own child?
In Guwahati, Mumbai Police recorded the statement of Sheena's brother Mikhail Bora, Indrani's son. Mikhail, who lives with Indrani's ailing parents, said he feared he too may be murdered over their property.
"I have given the email conversations between me and my mother, Indrani Mukerjea. I also gave photographic evidence regarding relations between Indrani Mukerjea, Peter Mukerjea and my sister Sheena," he said.