The decision of Shyamwar Rai, Indrani Mukerjea’s former driver, to turn approver – that is, become a witness for the prosecution in exchange for a pardon – represents a huge boost for the CBI in the Sheena Bora murder case.
Since Indrani was arrested by the Khar police on August 25 last year, there were whispers at Khar police station that to prove their case, it would be necessary to turn Rai into an approver. It was Rai’s arrest – in a weapons-possession case – just days earlier that had blown the lid off the Sheena Bora murder.
This plan, which the CBI stuck with after it was handed the case in October 2015, came to fruition when Rai confessed in court on Wednesday that he had helped murder Sheena and that he wished to give evidence against the other accused, Indrani and her ex-husband Sanjeev Khanna, in exchange for a pardon. Rai had made his intentions clear last week, when he wrote that he wished to reveal details of the conspiracy and execution of Sheena’s murder in a two-page letter to the CBI court.
When the court asked Rai how he knew about the murder, he said he was present at the time of the incident and was among the participants, along with the other accused. “I am aware about the facts connected to the commission of offence of killing of Sheena Bora by strangulation,” Rai told the court.
Indrani, Peter Mukerjea and Sanjeev Khanna were also produced in court on Wednesday.
Rai is a crucial witness for the CBI as it was his arrest that led to the unravelling of Sheena’s murder. The Khar police, acting on a tip-off, had arrested Rai on August 21, 2015 from Carter Road with a weapon and three live cartridges.
During his interrogation, Rai allegedly confessed to Sheena’s murder. Rai, in his statements to the Khar police and later the CBI, said that Indrani had planned the murder with Khanna.
As part of the plan, he said he and Indrani had travelled to Raigad for a reconnaissance on April 23, 2012. When they returned to Mumbai, Indrani booked a room for Khanna at Hotel Hilltop in Worli, Rai said. The next day, Indrani and Rai picked up Khanna from the hotel in a rented car and drove to a spot near National College in Bandra and waited for Sheena to meet them there.
When Sheena arrived around 7pm, she got into the car and sat in the rear seat with Khanna, Rai said in his statement. Indrani, who was sitting in the front seat next to Rai, instructed him to drive into a deserted bylane near Pali Naka in Bandra.
It was here that Khanna strangulated Sheena inside the car, according to Rai. Later, sometime between 1.30am and 2am on April 25, 2012, Indrani, Khanna and Rai got into the car, with Sheena’s body in a bag in the boot, and left for Gagode village in Pen tehsil of Raigad district.
Around 4am, after identifying an isolated spot near the village on the Raigad highway, the three dumped the bag containing Sheena’s body there. They then poured petrol over the bag and burned it, according to Rai’s statement.