Decade-old murder bears chilling resemblance to case | Delhi News

New Delhi: Exactly 11 years ago, a murder eerily similar to the Shraddha Walkar case had rocked the capital. Niranjani Pillai, a 27-year-old South African lawyer, was allegedly killed by her husband, Sumit Handa, on October 29, 2011. A supposed video call with a male friend, suspicions of infidelity and constant fights had apparently provoked Handa into stabbing his wife in the abdomen, strangling her with the laptop charging cord and stashing her body in the bathroom of their flat in south Delhi’s Pul Prahladpur.
Police said Handa then carried out a marathon internet search and relied on TV shows to chop the woman’s body into pieces and stuff them into a trolley bag and her belongings into another. He drove to Rai in Haryana, 70km from Delhi, to get rid of the incriminating trolley bags. He bought some petrol at a gas station, dragged the bags to a forest 200 metres away and then set them on fire. He returned home with some ashes in Pillai’s memory.
What shocked the cops at the time was the in-depth planning done by the accused. As in the Walkar case, Handa, like Aaftab Poonawala, would not tell the investigators about where the murder weapon was discarded. It took 20 days for police to recover the weapon, a knife, in addition to some bones. All these formed crucial evidence in the murder case.
Ashok Chand, retired additional commissioner (Crime Branch), the lead investigator in the case, recalled on Thursday that Handa had even got the bathroom floor tiles changed and then created a credible alibi over two days after the murder. “Handa then filed a missing person report, telling us that Pillai had served him sedative-laced tea on October 30 and had eloped with her lover. I remember him producing emails he claimed to have sent her, begging her to return,” Chand told TOI.
While the local police fell for the staged circumstances, the Crime Branch felt something was amiss and kept Handa under surveillance. When he returned to Delhi after a visit to his home in Agra, he was interrogated by police but appeared confident. Eventually, however, he broke down and confessed to the crime.
Like the Mehrauli case where the cops are banking upon DNA matching to confirm Walkar’s murder, it was also DNA samples from the ashes and bones that matched and confirmed Pillai’s death.
Handa was employed with a west Delhi travel firm at the time. He had met Pillai at Asherville in Durban, South Africa. He claimed to the cops to have immensely loved Pillai and committed the crime in the heat of the moment.
Police, however, were circumspect. The couple had a one-year-old son who Handa had moved to Agra a week before the murder, raising significant suspicions that it was a pre-meditated crime. The custody of the couple’s son was given to Pillai’s parents in South Africa three years after the murder.
The cops went to court claiming a watertight chargesheet against Hand a few months later, but 11 years later, the trial is still going on. The next hearing is on November 21. The accused, meanwhile, is out on bail.

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