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Saturday, Aug 17, 2019

Odisha woman’s 8-yr-long quest to find truth behind mother’s disappearance ends

The woman who went missing eight years ago was allegedly murdered by her brother-in-law and her body buried after being half dissolved by acid.

india Updated: Jul 27, 2019 21:09 IST
Debabrata Mohanty
Debabrata Mohanty
Police found a part of a skull that is believed to be of a woman who went missing eight years ago.
Police found a part of a skull that is believed to be of a woman who went missing eight years ago.(HT Photo)

A daughter’s 8-year-long quest to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of her widowed mother resulted in success on Friday when police in the western Odisha town of Sambalpur, after four hours of digging, found part of a skull that is assumed to be her mother’s.

Bijayini Mishra, a PhD scholar in Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University said, “I don’t want anyone to undergo the trauma that I went through in the last 8 years. I have faced repeated barbs on how my mother eloped with someone. I knew this was false and that she was murdered and buried.”

Sub-divisional police officer of Sambalpur, BS Udgata, who recently took charge of the case, said the skull was recovered after police nabbed the main accused, Basant Panda, a civil contractor, a couple of days ago.

“During interrogation, he admitted to killing Jayshree, his distant sister-in-law, as she demanded that he return Rs 1.60 lakh that she gave him as loan. He allegedly throttled her to death, poured acid on her body, and hired a labourer to dig a pit to bury the body. The acid dissolved a major part of the victim’s skeleton, so we could find only a part of her skull,” said Udgata.

Jayashree Mishra went missing on October 13, 2011, while she had gone out to distribute invitation cards of her elder daughter’s wedding. Though her family members lodged a missing complaint with the Sambalpur town police station, the police did not take any action.

“When I went to the police station, I was told that my mother may have eloped with her brother-in-law, Basant Panda. But I knew that he had killed my mother as she had asked him to pay back the money that she had lent him,” said Mishra.

Though her neighbours cast aspersions on the character of her missing mother, Bijayini Mishra continued her fight to reveal the truth. She met many senior police officers, but was always told that the matter “is under investigation”.

On April 22 this year, Mishra filed an RTI application seeking the status of the investigation and it was revealed that the investigation had not progressed. Last month, she met Odisha’s Director General of Police, Dr RP Sharma, who directed the police officials in Sambalpur to expedite the investigation.

Last week, she got an anonymous call that informed her that her mother had been murdered by Basant Panda. She then went to the local police station and lodged an FIR. Panda was arrested from Jujumura block where he was staying in the guise of a priest.

After killing the widow, Panda paid a labourer Rs 200 to dig a pit and buried the body himself at night, police said.

“On the next day, the labourer asked Panda what the pit was for, and Panda threatened him with dire consequences if he spoke about it to anyone. After some time Panda shifted to Haridwar. However, he used to come back and visit the burial site sometimes,” said Udgata, the sub-divisional police officer.

The part of the skull has been sent to the State Forensic Science Laboratory. “We will do DNA profiling of the body and match the skull’s properties with it. The case should have been investigated seriously in 2011,” said Udgata.

Bijayini said she would meet the DGP once again to expedite the investigation of the case so that the accused could be tried at the earliest.

First Published: Jul 27, 2019 21:09 IST

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