How Crime Patrol fan plotted murder of 15-yr-old; 2 arrested

Updated on Sep 04, 2022 01:57 PM IST

Ten teams from Mumbai and Ahmedabad worked on the case. Seven days after Vanshita’s body was found stuffed in a duffle bag dumped near Naigaon railway station, Waliv police arrested the culprits from Palanpur, Gujarat, on Saturday for allegedly planning and killing the schoolgirl

Waliv crime branch, headed by police inspector Rahul Patil, tracked down the duo -- Santosh and his friend Vishal -- Naigaon station to Vaishno Devi to Rajasthan, before apprehending them from Santosh’s place of birth -- Palanpur, Gujarat
Waliv crime branch, headed by police inspector Rahul Patil, tracked down the duo -- Santosh and his friend Vishal -- Naigaon station to Vaishno Devi to Rajasthan, before apprehending them from Santosh’s place of birth -- Palanpur, Gujarat
ByMegha Sood and Shreya Bhandary

Megha Sood and Shreya Bhandary

Mumbai: The Rathods, Andheri residents, have spent sleepless nights for a week, following the disappearance and murder of their 15-year-old daughter Vanshita on August 25. So, when news of the arrest of 21-year-olds Santosh Makwana and his accomplice Vishal Anbhavne, reached them in the early hours of Saturday, the family found itself awash with feelings of relief and rage.

“We want the police to give us 10 minutes with the two. They should be lynched in full public view. Both the men deserve capital punishment and we will not rest till a speedy trial is conducted and they are hanged to death,” said 22-year-old Mitali Rathod, the victim’s sister.

An inconsolable Bhavna, Vanshita’s mother, said, “I know the law says the accused will be presented in court and jailed eventually, but I want the police to let me meet them first. I could kill them with my own bare hands, but before that I want to know why they did what they did. My daughter was just a baby with a heart of gold.”

Vanshita had left home at 11:15am for school on August 25, but when she did not return till late in the evening, the family filed a missing persons complaint. “We knew something was amiss, but never imagined she would be dead. We spent a sleepless night, waiting to hear from the police. On August 26, we were called to the Andheri police station with Vanshita’s photos. We hoped that she’d be okay,” said Mitali.

The following day, Mitali received a call from Waliv police station, informing her about a body found stuffed in a bag, lying next to a railway station. The family was asked to visit the police station to identify it.

“I was sitting in front of my parents, but had to keep a straight face. We were allowed to see Vanshita’s body several hours after the phone call from the police, but my memory is very bleak. All I remember is seeing her face, which was bloated three times over and her mutilated body,” added Mitali.

Earlier this week, Waliv police had released photos of the accused seeking assistance from Maharashtra and Gujarat police to help them nab the culprits.

The arrests

Ten teams from Mumbai and Ahmedabad worked on the case. Seven days after Vanshita’s body was found stuffed in a duffle bag dumped near Naigaon railway station, Waliv police arrested the culprits from Palanpur, Gujarat, on Saturday for allegedly planning and killing the schoolgirl.

Waliv crime branch, headed by police inspector Rahul Patil, tracked down the duo -- Santosh and his friend Vishal – from Naigaon station to Vaishno Devi to Rajasthan, before apprehending them from Santosh’s place of birth -- Palanpur, Gujarat.

Who were they?

According to Nirmal Nagar police, Santosh lived with his parents in Teen Bangla, behind the railway colony, in Bandra (east). A school dropout, he did odd jobs to make ends meet, his most recent job being with a local catering service provider. Like his friend, Vishal is also a school dropout and was unemployed. He lived by himself in Mora Gaon, Juhu, while his parents lived separately in the same area.

The plan to kill

On their arrest, the two confessed to the crime and revealed that they hatched the plan to kill Vanshita on August 15. According to Kailash Barve, senior police inspector (PI) of Waliv police station, Santosh had been in a relationship with Vanshita over the last few months; the two had spent a couple of days together away from home a month ago.

Vanshita’s family learnt about their rendezvous and on their return, Santosh was thrashed by her mother and Mitali’s friend. He told the police that Vanshita had also slapped him in the middle of a road, asking him not to meet her again. This prompted him to plot the revenge.

Santosh collaborated with his friend Vishal to carry out the act, assuring him that they would not get caught. A ‘Crime Patrol’ fan, he was confident about ways to mislead the police.

On August 15, Vishal robbed his mother’s gold mangalsutra and sold it to a local jeweller for 2 lakh, through a middleman. The middleman was paid a fee of 10,000 for facilitating the sale. The money would be used by the two to flee the city after committing the crime. Meanwhile, Vishal arranged a knife and hid it in his bedroom.

The execution

Vanshita had planned to go on a school picnic on August 26, which according to her sister, she was very excited about.

Santosh called her over to his friend’s place on August 25. Vanshita left her house for school but kept her word to meet Santosh.

According to senior PI Barve, after spending an intimate afternoon with Santosh, Vanshita told him that she would not meet him in future. That’s when Santosh called his friend over.

On the arrival of his friend, Santosh gestured to him to pull out the knife from his back pocket and stab her. Vishal knifed her three to four times in the abdomen. When Vanshita resisted, he gagged her to prevent her from screaming.

Santosh then snatched the knife from his friend and stabbed Vanshita repeatedly till she breathed her last.

The two then dressed up the deceased girl in Vishal’s T-shirt and her slacks. They wrapped the body in the blanket and stuffed it in a travel bag, which was lying in Vishal’s house.

They then hired an autorickhaw to travel to Vile Parle railway station and boarded a Virar slow train. They got down at Naigaon station around 5.30 pm and threw the bag in the bushes below the bridge near the station before taking a train to Vasai.

On the run

At Vasai the two bought fresh pair of jeans and T-shirts and got a haircut from a local salon, said Barve. They changed into the new clothes on the skywalk near the station and went to Virar, where their images were captured on the railways’ CCTV cameras. “Santosh and Vishal returned to Vasai station after two hours, switched off their mobile phones and boarded the Jodhpur Express,” said Barve.

The two travelled to Jaipur, Jodhpur and Ajmer before leaving for Vaishno Devi, where they stayed for a day before heading for Pokhran and subsequently Palanpur, where they discarded their mobile phones, the clothes they wore on the day of the murder and Vanshita’s schoolbag, which they had carried along.

“While travelling in long distance trains, the two always sat in the compartment after the engine so that they could jump off just as the train stopped. This was done to avoid being caught on CCTV cameras installed at the stations,” said the cop.

The chase

Waliv police along with the Gujarat crime branch and Mumbai crime branch were on a look-out for the two for six days.

Waliv police received a phone call at 3.30 pm on August 26 from locals at Naigaon about a body found in a travel bag. It contained a girl’s body with stab wounds in her abdomen. The police also found a uniform on the bag, which led them to identify the deceased in an hour. The victim, Vanshita, was reported kidnapped at Andheri police station the previous day.

Her boyfriend Santosh was also identified as missing. Cops inspected the CCTV footage and followed the mobile phone locations. On August 27, they found Santosh’s image in one of the CCTV recordings at Virar station from the previous day. They figured the two had returned to Vasai and then boarded the Jodhpur Express the same evening.

“Over 2000 CCTV footages – from Ahmedabad to Ajmer – were scanned and several places searched – from Ajmer to Jodhpur to Jaipur -- as both had switched of their mobile phones,” said Barve.

The team was tipped off about Santosh’s hideout in his village Palanpur. His relatives’ homes were searched but the two were not immediately traced.

On Friday evening Palanpur locals informed the cops that Santosh and Vishal were put up at a lodge. “Our team, headed by API Samir Pagdhare, then informed the local police and raided the lodge at 1 am on Saturday and arrested the duo,” said Barve.

Vishal told the police that he was emotionally blackmailed by his friend to help him execute the murder and dispose of the body. Santosh, he said, had assured him that the body would never be found and that they would return to Mumbai safely after the dust had settled down.

“We searched five houses in Palanpur and found the two mobile phones and their clothes but could not locate Vanshita’s schoolbag,” said Barve. He added, “Although Santosh claims to have had physical relationship before killing Vanshita, we are yet to confirm that. We are verifying Santosh’s confession and are yet to ascertain if she was raped, as the post mortem report and swab tests are awaited.”

Family mourns

Back home at New Municipal Colony, Andheri (east), the grief-stricken Rathods can barely look at Vanshita’s toys, bags, clothes as well as her bed.

“She was six-years-old when she started recording her height on our bedroom wall, marking it with a pencil and recording each date. The last recording is from earlier this year. I go breathless every time I pass that wall,” said Mitali.

Vanshita, fondly nicknamed Dolly, had scribbled her name all over her cupboard, bed as well as the television set. There’s a wall with a chart paper pasted on it, with 90% written in bold – that was her aim for Class 10 board exams this year.

“She was full of life, and very determined to study hard. Her things are all a reminder of her innocence. She did not deserve to go the way she did,” added her mother.

For her 15th birthday on October 1, she had demanded a party with friends. “In our wildest nightmare, we could not imagine that we would have to live with her memories instead,” said Mitali.

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