A girl who had gone missing from near her school when she was seven, was traced and reunited with her family after nine years on Thursday. The police have arrested Harry D’Souza, 50, who allegedly kidnapped her because he had no child, and later forced her into working when he had a daughter.
According to the DN Nagar police, the girl, Pooja Gaud, used to stay with her parents in the Gilbert Hill area in Andheri and studied at a municipal school on the Cama Road in Andheri. The police said that on January 22, 2013, Pooja went missing after she left school to return home. When she did not return, her parents searched for her and subsequently approached the police. A missing person’s complaint was registered and all efforts were made to find her, but to no avail.
“We had continuously been trying to track her ever since and earlier this week, we received a tip-off from a woman. The lady said that she suspected that a teenage girl staying in Nehru Nagar slums in Vile Parle,” said senior police inspector Milind Kurde, DN Nagar police station. A team was sent to visit the house that the informant had named, and inquiries were made with the couple staying there.
“Though initially evasive and resistant, the couple finally confessed that one of the two girls they were raising as their own was not their daughter. We immediately brought the entire family to the police station for further inquiries. The girl, now 16, was quizzed separately, while the couple was questioned in another room. Slowly, the truth started coming out. The girl confirmed that she was none other than Pooja,” said an officer who was part of the investigation.
Kurde added, “Pooja was kidnapped by Harry D’Souza, 50 from near her school and brought her home. He and his wife Vyankatamma, 37 started raisingher as their daughter, as they were childless. However, three years later, their own daughter was born, and Pooja’s life took a turn for the worse.”
Over the next six years, the couple allegedly mistreated her and made her work as a housemaid, taking all her earnings for themselves, the police said. Harry and Vyankatamma were arrested and charged with kidnapping, wrongful confinement, trafficking of a minor and unlawful compulsory labour under the Indian Penal Code. Meanwhile, Pooja’s parents, on learning about her rescue, rushed to the police station and joyfully identified her in a tearfilled reunion. The entire police station celebrated the reunion of parents and daughter after nine years.