Sunny Soni's family looked around for several days but did not spot their son's remains in the buses near their shanty. They had visited the spot at least five times.
Body parts of the five-year-old were discovered by a local, Sudhakar Khedekar, on Sunday morning at Aarey Colony in Goregaon. Sunny's body has been sent to Bhagwati hospital for a post mortem, but preliminary medical reports reveal that Sunny was killed by a leopard. The police found the leopard’s hair on the boy’s bloodstained shirt that was lying near the bushes.
Sunny was living in a rented room at Charandevpada of Adarsh Nagar with his family for the last six months. He had gone missing on April 24 evening. He had stepped out of the house to play. When he did not return, his father, Sanjay, a hawker, and the neighbours searched for him. They finally registered a police complaint in the night.
“The bushes are right behind our room. We visited the jungle several times to look for him, but there was no trace of him. Since Sunny went missing, his mother and I have spent sleepless nights, only wanting to see him. And when I did eventually see him, I could not bear to look at our son’s body parts,” said Sanjay Soni.
His mother, Urmila, is still in shock. Sunny has a two-and-a half-year-old brother, Mani.
The family said that they were looking for clues for the boy's whereabouts such as his footwear or the thread around his neck, but to no avail.
“All the residents of the area had united to look for the boy. The evening he went missing, several residents went inside the jungle to look for him. We even put up his posters all around the place, but could not find him,” said SM Soni, the boy's uncle.
Eight years ago, Kishan Karkare, a three-year-old boy from the same area had also met with a similar fate.
Neighbours said that they had suspected that a leopard had attacked Sunny. “When he went missing, we all thought that a leopard must have attacked him because this has happened before. But everyone was afraid to say it out loud,” said Santosh Godse, the boy's neighbour. “We just went out searching for him hoping for the best.”
The family, too, somewhere knew that they had lost their son to a leopard. “We know that the area is risky. On several evenings, you can see leopards roaming around in the area, not more than 20 feet away from our houses. But with the modest livelihood of people around here, there is little we can do,” said Sanjay.