The father of Shraddha Walkar, who was allegedly murdered and her body was cut into 35 pieces by her live-in partner Aftab Ameen Poonawala in Delhi, on Tuesday demanded a death penalty for the accused while also suspecting a "love jihad" angle behind the incident.
"I suspected a love jihad angle. We demand death penalty for Aftab. I trust Delhi Police and the probe is moving in the right direction. Shraddha was close to her uncle and didn't talk to me much. I was never in touch with Aftab. I lodged the first complaint in Mumbai's Vasai," her father Vikas Walkar told news agency ANI.
Aftab, 28, was a food blogger who used to work at a call centre in Delhi, police investigation has revealed. The police are now probing if he had rented a flat in Delhi's Chhatarpur area as part of a conspiracy to kill the victim. Police also revealed that the couple, who met on a dating app, used to have frequent fights.
The couple were in a relationship since 2019 and had moved to Delhi this year, police sources told ANI. Prior to this, they were in Maharashtra and used to travel to various places. They visited some hill stations in March-April and in May, they went to Himachal Pradesh where they met a man who lived in Chhatarpur. Upon shifting to Delhi, they initially stayed at the man's flat, reports said.
Later, Aftab rented a flat in Chhatarpur and shifted there with Shraddha days before murdering her, the police found. He reportedly strangled her to death on May 18 in the Chhatarpur flat.
"It is also a matter of investigation whether Aftab had already hatched a conspiracy to kill her," police sources said.
Aftab has done his graduation and used to live in Mumbai with his family, police found. He and Shraddha used to work at the same call centre, according to them.
During interrogation after being arrested, he told the police he used to take out the body parts for disposal late at 2 am for 18 days, said sources.
"Aftab's social media handles show he had done food blogging for some time, but did not post any video for a long time. His last post came in February, after which there was no activity. He has more than 28,000 followers on Instagram," sources said.
"It is learnt that after the murder, Aftab used to return home by 6-7 pm and then take the dead body parts kept in the fridge for disposal." He used to carry the body parts in a black foil but dispose them without the foil in the forest, making it difficult to ascertain if the pieces were thrown by someone or were animal remains, sources added.
Aftab was arrested on Saturday based on a complaint lodged by the victim's father. He has been sent to police remand for five days, police said on Monday.
Police said that Aftab, after searching on Google, cleaned blood stains from the floor with some chemicals and disposed of the stained clothes. He shifted the body to the bathroom and bought a fridge from a nearby shop. Later, he chopped the body into small pieces and put them in the fridge.
"The two met on a dating app in Mumbai. They were in a live-in relationship for three years and had shifted to Delhi. Soon after, Shraddha started pressurizing Aftab to marry her," Ankit Chauhan, Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police, South Delhi told ANI.
"The two quarrelled frequently and it used to get out of control. In this particular instance that occurred on May 18, the man lost his temper and strangled her," said Mr Chauhan.
"The accused told us that he chopped her body into pieces and disposed of her parts in the jungle area near Chhatarpur Enclave. He has been arrested and an investigation is going on," added Mr Chauhan.
Aftab used to sleep in the same room where he had chopped Shraddha's body after killing her, said sources. He used to see her face after keeping it in the fridge. He had also cleaned the fridge after disposing of the body parts, they added.
Sources said Aftab had relations with many girls even before Shraddha. Before committing the crime, he also watched many crime movies and web series, including American crime drama series Dexter.
In September, one of Shraddha's friends informed her family there was no contact with her for the last two and a half months, and her mobile was also switched off. Her family also found there were no updates on her social media accounts during this period.
In November, Shraddha's father, who lived in Palghar in Maharashtra, approached Mumbai police and lodged a missing complaint.
During initial investigation, Shraddha's last location was found in Delhi and the case was transferred to the Delhi Police.
Mr Walkar told the police about his daughter's relationship with Aftab and suspected his involvement in his daughter's absence. After the police found out Aftab and Shraddha had moved to Delhi, they traced and arrested him.
Aftab confessed to the crime during questioning and said Shraddha was pressurizing him to marry her.
Police also recovered some bones from Aftab's rented flat and officials said efforts are on to recover the remaining body parts.