Aryanka Hosbetkar’s cycling pals witnessed a confrontation between her and her friend Jerrit John, 44, just five hours before the attack, one of the witnesses has said in her police statement.
The squabble took place around midnight, when her five friends had just dropped the 26-year-old physiotherapist to her building in Adarsh Nagar, Worli after a cycling expedition to Colaba.
In her statement, one of her friends said they were leaving when they heard her shout for help.
The witness said they saw John trying to talk to her forcibly. “She was pleading with him to let her go, but he demanded that they have a discussion,” a police official said.
According to the witness, the group of cyclists, part of a Facebook community, intervened, but John told them to stay away as Hosbetkar was adult enough to take her own decisions.
The witness said the group did not know Hosbetkar closely as they would meet only occasionally, during cycling expeditions.
The group convinced John that they would wait a few steps away while he spoke to Hosbetkar, to which she agreed, the statement said.
Minutes later, the conversation got out of hand, and the group intervened and took Hosbetkar to her flat. An officer from Dadar police station said: “They stayed over at her home as she was scared, and all of them, along with Hosbetkar and her mother, sat around speaking well into the night.”
Around 5am, John called Hosbetkar and said he wanted to sort out the issue. Minutes later, he arrived and demanded that apologise. He then pulled out a bottle and threw a liquid into her eyes. The chemical spilled on several others too, and started releasing smoke.
Some of them ran to the balcony to inhale clean air, while others rushed to the bathroom to wash of the chemical, which was burning their skin. John fled, bolting the door from outside.
Hosbetkar’s mother then called the neighbours and the police for help.