Mumbai: In a horrifying incident, a 38-year-old estate agent brutally murdered his 9-year-old niece, buried her body in a drum filled with cement and dumped it in the Kasara Ghat on the Mumbai-Nashik highway. While the agent, identified as Prakash Hari Rathod alias Haju, 38, is still at large, Uttan coastal police have arrested his wife, Anita, 30, and their relative Akash Chauhan, 22, for their involvement in the crime.
According to police, the girl's mother, who lives in Aurangabad, had registered a missing person complaint on December 4, about her daughter. In her statement to police, she had pointed the finger of suspicion on her brother-in-law, Prakash Rathod, who had approached her, offering to shoulder the responsibility of one of her daughters, after her husband's demise. Under the pretext of taking care of the minor and enrolling her in school, Rathod brought her to his home in Uttan near Bhayandar, in October. For a month, he kept his sister-in-law updated about his ward but went incommunicado afterwards. The girl's mother therefore registered a police complaint.
The superintendent of police, Shivaji Rathod, deputed special teams to locate the kidnapped girl and nab the culprits. After CCTV footage failed to yield clues, a team led by Assistant Police Inspector Satish Nikam learnt that Rathod had not enrolled the girl in school as he had promised her mother. He and his family were also untraceable. Police tracked Anita Rathod to her maternal home in Jalgaon. First, she tried to mislead police but on sustained questioning, she revealed the horrific sequence of events.
She told police, instead of enrolling his niece in school, Rathod had forced the child to undertake domestic chores in their house. The child was unaware how to use a western style toilet and would constantly soil herself whenever she had to go and left a mess afterwards. The Rathods found this annoying as cleaning up after her was a constant burden. Rathod frequently thrashed her for dirtying the toilet. On November 7, after a similar episode, he hit the girl and strangled her in rage and she died. The couple then kept the body in a drum. But when a smell began to emanate from the drum, they poured cement into it and sealed it.
Four days later, Rathod, with the help of Akash, hired a tempo on the pretext of transporting household goods to his native village. Akash drove the tempo and the duo threw the drum into Kasara Ghat on November 12. “The body of the girl and her clothes, recovered after breaking through the cement has been sent for analysis and reports are awaited,” said Nikam. Meanwhile a case under sections 302 and 201 of the IPC has been registered against the accused, who have been remanded in custody until December 16.