A few months ago, Dr Ravindra Shisve received a message saying the Cuffe Parade killings may have been detected. The message though turned out to be incorrect. The dejection though felt real. Shisve, whose jurisdiction stretched across South Mumbai as Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone I) between June 2012 and February 2016, said detectives were still on the lookout for clues and that the trail hasn’t gone cold.
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The case, known as the Cuffe Parade killings, is that of two minors who were raped and killed in Cuffe Parade in 2011-12, with a third case closer to Sassoon Docks. In the Cuffe Parade killings — coming close on the heels of the infamous killings in Nehru Nagar where at least the DNA samples of three killings matched — the technical leads didn’t match.
Since 2012, it has become a practice for detectives pursuing the case to travel to any police station across the city and sometimes within the state, whenever any sexual assault case of minors are detected. The sleuths then look for DNA samples of the accused in those cases and match those with the ones in the Cuffe Parade killings. Shisve’s successor Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone I) Manoj Kumar Sharma confirmed the cases continue to remain undetected though efforts to catch the killer were still underway.
Through 2011 and 2012, the three brutal murders of toddlers left local residents terrified. The first disappearance of a kid was reported on October 19, 2011. A two-year-old had crawled out of a house in Shiv Shakti Nagar. Her body was found — decomposed – in an empty plot at Vij Bhavan in Cuffe Parade. She had been sexually assaulted. The second body was of a three-and-half-year-old girl, who had gone missing from her grandmother’s home at Ambedkar Nagar. The body was spotted by a local resident on April 12, 2012 morning as the head bobbed in the water behind Maker Chambers in Cuffe Parade.
What was common to the killings were blows to the back of the head and marks of a blunt object. Police said in the second case they even suspected the girl’s grandfather and stepfather but there were no leads. While the grandfather died last year, the father was able to prove his alibi. On June 18, 2012, another body was found – of a three-year-old who disappeared from her house in Sassoon Docks and was found strangled to death. Till date, over 1,500 DNA samples have been filed — of anyone “filling the suspect’s profile”.
Shisve, who took over around the time the bodies were spotted, said the “pressure to crack the case was huge”. “In fact, through the three years, there were several instances where we felt we had cracked the case. We would always come so close. There were so many aspects to all the three cases. Sometimes, the detection would zero in on a taxi driver. Then there was an instance where we found a guy who matched but his alibi was strong. Though everything proved he had left soon after the killings, the alibi proved he could not have,” recalled Shisve.
Officers who have probed the case said they also probed a specific lead. Adding to the intrigue was the gap of three months between each killing. There also was the age bar. Could it be a specific act, as misled by a superstition? “On August 8, 2012, there was a blast in Pune. Going by the scenario as the zonal head for South Bombay, the terror quotient was looming high. But simultaneously, the pressure to ensure no minor goes missing was equally strong,” he recalled. “On the same day, we had a case of a minor gone missing. We pulled all efforts and in four hours found her at Goregaon. Because of this case few other instances were detected but such was the weight of these detections that nothing was left to chance…”
In the last few months, the police have been on a drive to get details of footpath dwellers. In most cases, investigators say finding an eyewitness is tough especially with the case now a few years old. The search for the killer though continues with the police certain that the perpetrators would make a similar mistake.