Police on Thursday found decomposed bones stuffed inside a suitcase from a forest near Faridabad’s Surajkund, officers aware of the matter said, indicating that the recovery could be linked to the grisly murder of Shraddha Walkar allegedly by her boyfriend Aaftab Poonawala, who is also accused of hacking her body into at least 35 pieces and dumping them in multiple locations.
A senior police officer aware of developments also said that the probe team recovered CCTV footage from six months ago that showed Poonawala walking with a backpack in the south Delhi neighbourhood of Chhattarpur, where he shared a flat with Walkar for three days before allegedly killing her on May 18. This is the second such clip of Poonawala that has emerged since the probe began.
In Mumbai, another Delhi Police team collected Walkar’s dental records — the treatment, her case history and X-rays of her teeth — from a local dentist who treated her several times. Walkar’s dental records are crucial for investigators because though it doesn’t have any DNA signatures, it could provide key clues for officers who recovered portion of a lower jaw from Gurugram six days ago. Police told a local court on Tuesday that they recovered a jaw and are running forensic tests to check if it belonged to Walkar.
Deputy commissioner of police Narender Kadiyan said a person saw a suitcase lying unattended in the Aravalli forest area in Surajkund around 2pm and called the police. “The body parts were wrapped in polythene and kept in the blue suitcase. A Delhi address was mentioned on the bag following which we informed the team probing Walkar’s murder,” he said.
Delhi Police have previously recovered bone fragments from forests in Chhattarpur and Gurugram, but forensic tests are yet to conclusively link them to Walkar. Police have also recovered a saw from the Chhattarpur flat and suspect that it may have been used by Poonawala to hack the body. To match DNA, police are using samples taken from Shraddha’s father Vikas Madan Walkar and brother Shreejay Vikas Walkar.
The senior officer cited above added that the recovered remains did not include a skull or any other identifiable body part.
The gruesome crime was unearthed last week after Poonawala ostensibly told the police that he murdered Walkar in their Chhattarpur flat six months ago, chopped her body for over two days, stored the pieces in a refrigerator for about three months, and dumped the body parts piece by piece in different parts of south Delhi and Gurugram. Police later said that the couple fought over finances on May 18 — three days after they moved into the flat in Chhattarpur.
But other than his confession and circumstantial clues, police have not made any major piece of evidence public. Investigators have recovered bone fragments, found some bloodstains in the flat, and recovered a saw, but forensic tests are yet to conclusively prove that these are linked to the case. Police say Poonawala confessed to the crime but their contention is not admissible in court unless backed by hard proof.
Kadiyan said that the recovery in Faridabad happened on a tip given by a passerby. “ A blue suitcase was found lying 500 metre inside the forest area on Pali road. When the team opened the suitcase, they found human body parts….A number was mentioned on the polythene that we found was from Delhi,” said Kadiyan.
A police officer associated with the case said that investigating officers have said Poonawala was not totally honest on the disposal of weapons or body parts. He initially allegedly told the police after his arrest on November 12 that he threw the body parts in Chhattarpur. A week later, he mentioned that he dumped some parts in Gurugram too, said the officer. Poonawala’s custody ends on Friday.
A second investigation team is also looking at CCTV footage recovered from a colony’s camera that ostensibly shows Poonawala walking with a backpack, said the police officer cited above said. Investigation so far has revealed that for three months after the murder, Poonawala allegedly used a black backpack to carry the body parts from his house to throw it away. The backpack is yet to be recovered, the officer said.
“Last week our team had started an extensive CCTV mapping exercise. We were checking all cameras, which could have recording facility dating back to May-June. We have found one. This may or may not be relevant to the investigation. We are analysing it and also looking at other cameras,” the officer mentioned above said.
In Mumbai, police recorded the statement of Walkar’s dentist, Dr Ishan Atil Mota, who runs a clinic in Vasai West. Dr Mota told the investigating officers that Walkar visited him for three root canal treatments and for the extraction of a wisdom tooth in November 2021.
“I have given my statement to the police and also shared Shraddha’s case history with them. She had come to my clinic for at least eight sittings for her treatment. I also told them that Shraddha had made the payment for her treatment through her credit card,” said Mota.
The matching of dental records could be used as additional evidence and help in identifying the recovered skull if the teeth are found intact. “Sometimes, if body parts are decomposed and deteriorated, getting a good sample for DNA testing becomes difficult and in such a scenario, the dental X-rays would come in handy,” said Dr Mota.
Poonawala and Walkar, originally from Vasai near Mumbai, were in a relationship and moved to Delhi in May 2022. Walkar was estranged from her family who opposed her relationship with Poonawala but the alleged murder came to light when a friend informed Walkar’s father, Vikas Madan Walkar, that he had not heard from her for at least two months. Her father then informed Mumbai Police in October.
A month-long probe by Mumbai and Delhi Police led investigators to the flat in south Delhi where Poonawala allegedly murdered Walkar.