At 8.20 pm in March last year, a 22-year-old woman was found strangled in the basement of a building where she ran a massage parlour. Her landlord had identified the body as that of Swapna’s. When police traced her husband, he identified the body as that of his missing wife Rekha Joy. When police went to Rekha’s village, they were told that her name was Mary Matthew. Evidence in the case pointed at five suspects — her husband, her landlord, a property dealer, a man who claimed to be her foster father and a massage client, who was allegedly the last to see her before she went missing.
The woman’s death is, however, fated to remain a mystery, with the court on September 20 acquitting the prime suspect in the case — the client — on grounds of a “substandard investigation” filled with “numerous loopholes and inherent defects”.
According to police, the client Shyno Verghese had gone her parlour for a massage on March 9. They had got into a scuffle after which Varghese had allegedly strangled her. He had then left with her phone and laptop, police had said. His statement to police and a CCTV footage showing him in the area between 6 pm to 7 pm was produced as evidence.
The court pointed at the many gaping holes in police investigation. One of them was the autopsy report, which, in contrast to police report, placed the date of death on March 11.
Further, the woman’s call detail records showed that she had spoken to 22 other people on March 9 after Verghese had left the spot. However, police did not look into the other calls and claimed that Verghese had used her phone.
Also, no forensic analysis of the CCTV footage was conducted in the case and there was a nine-day delay in lodging the FIR.
“No purpose can be achieved by such type of substandard investigation... it only erodes the faith of public at large in the system as whole,” Additional Sessions Judge Pawan Kumar Jain held.
The court, in particular, pulled up police for the manner in it had taken the photohgraphs of the crime scene. Directing the Commissioner of Police to take pictures of the crime scene in landscape mode, ASJ Jain held, “Photographs were taken in such a manner that the same did not depict true picture of the place of occurrence... If some of the photographs...