Soumya Vishwanathan was found dead in her car with a gunshot wound on her head
September 30, 2008, was just another day for 25-year-old journalist Soumya Vishwanathan. A news producer with Headlines Today, she had stayed back late to help out with a breaking news event. Her work done, she left the Jhandewalan office at 3.03 am, got into her car and drove home to Vasant Kunj. She didn't know this drive would be her last, that a late-night robbery attempt would brutally cut her life short.
A Delhi court yesterday convicted five men in the 15-year-old murder case. Four accused - Ravi Kapoor, Amit Shukla, Baljit Malik and Akshay Kumar -- were held guilty of murder and loot. The fifth, Ajay Sethi, was held guilty of helping the others.
On her way back, Soumya overtook a car occupied by Kapoor, Shukla, Kumar and Malik, police officers who probed the case have told news agency PTI.
The four convicts, police said, noticed that the woman driver who overtook them was alone. They sped up and started following. First, they tried to intercept Soumya's car. She did not stop. Kapoor then fired at her with a countrymade weapon. The bullet hit her on the head, killing her instantly. The car crashed against a divider on Nelson Mandela Marg, close to her home, and came to a halt.
The killers fled the scene, an officer said, but returned 20 minutes later to check the victim's condition. When they saw police personnel, they ran away.
Around 3.45 am, a staff of a nearby restaurant cycling home saw a woman in the car, with its headlights and engine on. He stopped a couple of vehicles and then called the cops. Soumya was rushed to AIIMS where she was declared dead. During their investigation, police found that Soumya had called her father around 3.15 am and told him that she was on her way. In less than half an hour, she was dead.
Police later found her phone and wallet in the car.
The investigation in the case was conducted by police from Delhi South district, then under HGS Dhaliwal, now special commissioner of Delhi Police special cell. Speaking to the media after the verdict yesterday, the senior officer said it was a challenging case as there was no physical contact between the victim and the killers. "Only a bullet was fired from a moving vehicle that hit Soumya, killing her," he said. The officer said the family had also been offered a CBI investigation, but they decided to stick with Delhi Police. He said he is happy that Delhi Police lived up to the faith.
Police made a breakthrough in the Soumya Vishwanathan murder case during its probe into the murder of another woman, Jigisha Ghosh, in 2009. Ghosh was looted and murdered on March 18, 2009. Ravi Kapoor was arrested in this connection. And during questioning, he said they had murdered another woman.
Yesterday's ruling brings some closure to Soumya's loved ones.
India Today News Director Rahul Kanwal, who was Soumya's colleague at the time, was at the court for the verdict. "Soumya Vishwanathan was the brightest young producer I have had the privilege of working with. On the night she was murdered, Soumya had stayed back after finishing the afternoon shift to help the night team prepare for the morning show. There had been a major terror attack and the newsroom was stretched covering the breaking news. Soumya was the flag-bearer of commitment and hard work in our newsroom," he posted on X.
"Her gruesome murder on the way back home has haunted me for 15 years. Was filled with emotion and relief as I heard Judge Pandey pronounce all the accused guilty in a crowded Saket courtroom this afternoon. Nothing will bring Soumya back but at least the murderers will pay for their crime," he added.
After the verdict, Soumya's parents Madhavi Vishwanathan and MK Vishwanathan fought back tears. Speaking to the media, Ms Vishwanathan said, "We lost our daughter, but this will act as a deterrent for others otherwise they (the convicts) would have been emboldened. At least, one gang would be out. That's all." She said she wants life sentence for the convicts.