It was 2013. A seven-year-old and her elder brother were on their way to school in Mumbai’s Andheri (West), when the siblings began fighting over pocket money. While the boy reached the school, the girl wandered around in the bylanes. It took nine years and seven months for that girl to reach home. In one of the most heart-rending stories of kidnapping, systematic torture and illegal confinement, the ‘Girl No. 166’ has finally been reunited with her family. Now 16, the girl was practically living next door from her original neighbourhood.
The Mumbai Police has arrested Harry Joseph D’Souza for the crime, while his wife Soni is still an accused. The 37-year-old woman has not been arrested as there is no one to take care of the couple’s six-year-old daughter, a police official was quoted as saying by The Indian Express. It was D’Souza (50), who lured the girl from the vicinity on the pretext of buying her ice cream. The man reportedly said that since the couple was childless, he thought that the girl was an answer to their desperation.
Initially, the Indian Express report says that D’Souzas treated the seven-year-old well. But soon after the case came into limelight, they decided to send her away to a hostel in Karnataka. Everything changed after 2016 when Soni gave birth to their daughter. The D’Souzas decided to bring back the kidnapped girl from the hostel as they couldn’t afford to pay for her stay there. Back in Mumbai, the Girl No. 166 was regularly beaten up and was not allowed to go out or to speak with anyone. She was forced to babysit D’Souzas’ daughter.
The breakthrough in the case came after the house help working at the couple’s Mumbai flat started talking to the girl. Later, the house help decided to look up for the missing case from 2013 and found numerous reports.
In one of the links, she found five contact numbers. While four were not working, the fifth one led the woman to Rafique, the neighbour of that girl’s family. After confirming the identity via a video call, the family were reunited with their daughter on Thursday at around 8:20 pm. The girl had stepped out on the pretext of taking the baby for a stroll.
Local police officials were also present on the spot. DN Nagar Police Station’s Assistant Sub-Inspector Rajendra Dhondu Bhosle, who is retired now, had tirelessly searched for the girl for the past 9 years. Talking to the Indian Express, he said that he pursued the case even after retirement because ‘insaniyat’ doesn’t stop with the end of service. Meanwhile, the reunion of the girl with her family has sparked intense media frenzy and the neighbourhood is also curious about meeting the girl. The family has decided to take her way to an unknown location for her safety.