Unable to come to terms with childhood friend’s involvement: Mom of Mumbai teen killed at New Year party

Traumatised by the death of her daughter, Jhanavi Kukreja, a 19-year-old student who was allegedly killed by two friends at a New Year’s Eve party in Khar, her mother on Saturday said she was unable to come to terms with the alleged involvement of her daughter’s childhood friend.

"Jhanavi and Diya Padalkar (19) were best friends. We have been neighbours for 13 years. I am unable to come to terms with Diya's involvement,” said Niddhi Kukreja, Jhanavi's mother. “This has happened to us, and tomorrow this could happen to anyone. All we want is justice,” she added.

The Khar police have arrested Padalkar and Shree Jogdhankar, 22 for allegedly killing Jhanavi.

Niddhi said, "Our daughter was celebrating her father’s birthday that night and she actually didn't want to go for the party. It was only after Diya’s request that she went.”

The terrace party was organised by Yash Ahuja, a common friend, at Bhagwati Heights in Khar. Police said the incident took place around 2.20 am on Friday when Jhanavi allegedly caught Padalkar and Jogdhankar in a compromising position. Seeing them together Jhanavi allegedly felt uneasy and rushed to the staircase, and Padalkar and Jogdhankar followed her. Jhanavi and Jogdhankar were close friends and knew each other for the past two years, said a friend. According to the police, most people at the party didn’t know Jogdhankar, nor was he invited. He allegedly attended the party as Jhanavi’s friend.

An argument allegedly broke out between the three in the staircase. On the second floor, a fight broke out between them and the two allegedly hit Jhanavi brutally, causing her multiple injuries. There was a severe injury to the back of her head, possibly after her it dashed the staircase, police said.

Jhanavi had multiple injuries, especially on her forehead and knees. The accused also allegedly grabbed her by the hair and pulled her down. In the incident, both Jogdhankar and Padalkar also received injuries. After the incident, both of them allegedly fled from the spot.

In their statement to the police, Pratik Sandhvani, 20, and Saideep Arora, 23, said they saw Diya in the washroom at Ahuja’s residence clearing blood stains from her lips. However, when they asked her, she said she did not say anything.

None of the others at the party were aware of the incident until 3 am, when one of the building’s residents went down from her flat along with her dog. While returning, she spotted a woman lying in a pool of blood on the ground floor near the staircase and alerted those partying on the terrace. Ahuja then went to the police station.

On reaching the building, police rushed Jhanavi to Bhabha hospital, where she was declared dead before admission. “We have sent her body for post mortem to ascertain the cause of death. We suspect that she has died of the head injuries that caused heavy blood loss, said a police officer requesting anonymity. The officer added that the police would probe whether any sexual assault was involved in the case.

When CCTV footage from the building was checked, Jogdhankar was allegedly seen fleeing from the building. He was soon arrested along with Padalkar. Both the accused were produced before the Bandra Magistrate court on Friday, which remanded them to police custody till January 7.

Jhanavi was studying psychology at Jai hind college and Jogdhankar, a resident of Wadala, is a student at Dadar catering college, while Padalkar is a BMS student from a college in Bandra.

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