Nearly a week after a 27-year-old woman was shot dead at a hotel in Gurugram, police are yet to find her body and have extended their search to canals in Punjab, based on the statements of the arrested suspects, officers associated with the case said on Monday.
Divya Pahuja, an accused in the alleged fake encounter of dreaded gangster Sandeep Gadoli, was out on bail after spending seven years in prison. She was killed on January 2. Police said she was allegedly blackmailing Abhijeet Singh, 56, a hotel owner in the city, who purportedly shot her dead at one of his properties.
Singh, and his employees Hemraj, 28, and Om Prakash, 23, were arrested in connection with the case. Police also recovered BMW car used to transport the body from Patiala in Punjab, but the two men who allegedly disposed of the body — identified as Balraj Gill and Ravi Bandra — are yet to be found, and six days after her murder, Pahuja’s body remains missing.
The murder came to light after Pahuja’s family, unable to contact her, approached the police suspecting foul play.
Subsequently, a police team reached Singh’s hotel on Tuesday night, found bloodstains, and then accessed CCTV footage which showed two men dragging a body wrapped in a bed sheet and loading it into a blue BMW sedan.
Last week, Patiala police said investigators in Gurugram had intimated them to begin a search operation to trace the vehicle — which bears Delhi registration number — after CCTV footage of various toll plazas indicated that the car had entered Patiala district.
The car was found at the parking lot of the New Patiala Bus Stand, and had several bloodstains, police said.
A senior police officer said that after abandoning the BMW in Patiala, Gill and Bandra boarded another car and travelled to Udaipur in Rajasthan. “We are conducting raids to arrest the suspects and we have some leads regarding their whereabouts,” he said, on condition of anonymity.
Police also said that they believe that the body has been dumped somewhere in Patiala, near the Ghaggar river canals, on the basis of the statements given by the arrested suspects during questioning.
Deputy commissioner of police (crime) Vijay Pratap Singh said that they have formed teams to monitor the search operation. “We are checking CCTV footage of the area to know the route the absconding accused took so that we can check other canals as well where they could have thrown the body,” he said.
Police on Monday arrested Megha Phogat, 20 — a friend of Abhijeet Singh, the prime accused — on charges of allegedly helping the hotelier dispose of Pahuja’s belongings after the murder, including the victim’s iPhone.
Police said she works as a porter at the hotel and met Singh in December, when she delivered a parcel to him and received a hefty tip.
DCP Singh said they arrested Phogat and were questioning her to know the sequence of events, and her role in the murder. “The suspect was aware of the murder and was called to the room seeking her help to dispose of the body. She got frightened and refused to take the body and went out,” the officer said.
“She revealed that Abhijeet Singh also handed over the murder weapon to her to dispose of. She took it and kept it in her bag and threw it somewhere. We are yet to recover them,” he said.
According to the DCP, Phogat was produced before the district court on Monday and was sent to two days’ police remand.
According to police, Gadoli, who was charged with a string of murders, was shot dead at a hotel in Mumbai on February 6, 2016.
However, the Mumbai Police alleged that jailed gangster Virendra Kumar alias Binder Gujjar conspired with Haryana Police personnel to eliminate Gadoli, who was lured into a trap with the help of Pahuja, Gadoli’s then girlfriend.