Srinagar: An intensive and painstaking investigation by police team led by SHO Nowgam Syed Showket Bukhari has helped Nowgam police to crack the murder of one Abiroo Shafi Bhat of Khwajapora, Nowgam, by his wife and her paramour, a firebrand cleric (moulvi), on the intervening night of 10 March 2018.
The wife, Asifa daughter of Muhammad Abdullah Dar of Aloochi Bagh, had on the morning of 11 March called her brother-in-law, who lives next door, and told him, “Your brother (Bai Jaan) is not waking up from sleep.” She had also ringed up her parents, and father-in-law who lives nearby, regarding the same.
The couple and their seven-year-old daughter lived separately. On the fateful night, the child was left with her maternal grandparents at Aloochi Bagh.
The family buried Abiroo Shafi believing that he had died of natural causes. Many ascribed it to heart attack although he had no history of heart ailment or any major disease. The family did not call a doctor, nor did they take Abiroo to hospital. But those who performed the last ablution and the family members, who were present at the time of ablution, said the body had become very stiff and was unusually cold. They had noticed some marks on the neck but could not suspect any foul play.
However, family members and those who came to console with the family began asking various questions regarding the sudden and untimely death of Abiroo.
His wife Asifa, was asked about the Whatsapp and Facebook applications which were missing from the phone of the deceased, even though he had sent Whatsapp message to a friend a few hours before his death. One of her uncles had asked Asifa that “you didn’t feel for a second that you were sleeping next to a dead body through the entire night?” According to the father of the deceased, the uncle’s innocuous query made Asifa furious and she had asked her mother to “tell him (the uncle) not to come here again”.
There were other red flags that made the family members increasingly suspicious of the wife. She wasn’t as distraught as a wife who has just lost her husband with whom she has lived for 12 years is expected to be. They were not only married for 12 years but had been in a relationship for several years before marriage also. They had gotten married despite objections by their families. Effectively, they had been together for more than half of their lives. Both were in their mid-thirties. Before being arrested by the police, while the family was mourning, the wife had also sold off a golden bangle that was a gift from her husband.
From the third day of her husband’s death, she had been using her phones a lot, which the mourning family thought was unbecoming for a new widow.
The family’s suspicion intensified when the co-accused in the murder, moulvi Tanveer Bhat (Lelhari) son of Ali Muhammad Bhat of Lelhar, Pulwama, visited the family on the third day of Abiroo’s death and delivered a moving sermon to the mourners. According to the family, the moulvi then went to the women’s tent to condole the widow and her mother.
As the family’s suspicion grew, they had called the woman’s father, brother and uncles and talked about her behaviour. They also told them about certain events in the past that pointed to her extra-marital indiscretions. Her family members were specifically asked to inquire from her the excessive phone use and other markers that raised suspicion. She had flatly denied. The family of the deceased also paid her Rs 5 lakh as the one-eighth of the inheritance of her husband.
On May 14 Muhammad Shafi Bhat, the father of the deceased, filed a complaint with the police station Nowgam suspecting foul play in the death of his son. On the basis of this complaint, police station Nowgam started inquest proceedings under section 174 CrPC.
During proceedings, the family requested deputy commissioner Srinagar for exhumation of the body. On May 26, 2018, a team of forensic experts from the forensic department of the Government Medical College Srinagar and doctors from health department exhumed the body and conducted the autopsy. Although the final report is yet to be received but the initial findings revealed that the prima facie cause of death is strangulation.
The police then accordingly registered a case FIR No. 52/2018 under 302 RPC and started investigation that was led by SHO Police Station Nowgam Showkat Ahmad Shah.
The police called moulvi Tanveer for questioning. Initially, he denied everything and the call records of the SIM he was using did not yield much information. Neither did the phone Asifa had been using yield anything significant.
However, a few days before his murder, the deceased had passed a certain phone number to his cousin and asked him to fetch its details. The cousin shared the same number with the police, which was traced to the moulvi. Further investigation revealed that the wife of the deceased had been using the SIM of one Suhail of Lelhar Pulwama, who happens to be the cousin of moulvi Tanveer. This SIM card was provided to her by the moulvi and she used it to communicate with him from her marital and maternal homes. After the murder, the moulvi had gone into hiding and the duo had changed their SIM cards. The moulvi had obtained a new SIM card in the name of one Rouf Sadiq of Nowgam for ease of communication with the woman.
Finally, when the moulvi was arrested, he confessed to the crime. The police recovered a broken cellphone which the wife of deceased had thrown out from the window of the house of her brother-in-law where the family was mourning. Another broken phone was recovered near her parents’ house in Aloochibagh. These were the phones she had been using to communicate with her paramour. One more mobile phone was recovered from the possession of the moulvi.
CONSPIRACY AND MURDER
During investigation it came to the fore that Asifa had been caught red handed by her husband while talking to the moulvi on phone, a day before he gave the number to one of his cousins for fetching its details. The wife had, in anger, gone to her maternal home and called up the moulvi. The duo hatched conspiracy to kill Abiroo Shafi and as per the plan the wife kept her minor girl child at her maternal home. The murder plan was executed between 12 and 12.30 am on the night of March 10 after the wife gave a glass of milk stupefied with sedatives to the deceased. The moulvi jumped the wall of the house and entered inside the room through a window, which had been left open by the wife of the deceased. When Abiroo was in deep slumber and too sedated to resist, the moulvi strangulated him with the assistance of deceased’s wife, Asifa. The moulvi stayed in the house till early morning before jumping the same wall. He took train from Nowgam railway station for his home at Pulwama.
In their confession, the two accused said they were planning to marry and had been in relationship for more than a year. The moulvi, who was very popular in the locality, used to deliver Friday sermons in the nearby mosque and the deceased had invited him for lunch on several occasions. The deceased had probably got a whiff of the illicit relationship between the two and had informed the local head of Jamiat-e-Ahli Hadees, Abdul Qayoom, about moulvi’s behavior. The moulvi, who taught in a private school in Pampore, had been asked not to deliver sermons thereafter.
During investigation, the police found the moulvi had inquired from a few locals as to who is pursuing the case in the family. He had also confessed to the crime before a few of them. Subsequently, the wife also was arrested and she too confessed to the conspiracy and murder.
The accused have been sent to judicial custody at Central Jail Srinagar.
The father of the deceased, Muhammad Shafi, other relatives and several locals visited the police station a few times and thanked SHO Showkat Ahmad and his team for swift and persistent investigation into the crime.
KR WEB DESK