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A 'coincidence' that helped Noida teen's killers

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Noida, May 10 (PTI) Police officials believe that the kidnapping and murder case of a money lender's teenage son in Greater Noida that took more than a week to be worked out could have been cracked in a day but for a "silly coincidence".

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For investigation leads, all that police initially had was CCTV footage from outside the restaurant that showed the victim, Kunal Sharma (14), walking towards a car following a woman who had come there to call him. Though helpful, the footage did not capture the face of the woman.

There was a CCTV installed inside the restaurant and well positioned to capture anyone coming to the reception counter of 'Shiva Dhaba' in Beta 2 area. But surprisingly, when checked by police, the CCTV was found non-functional around 2 pm on May 1 -- the time Kunal walked out of the restaurant after the woman came to call him.

This was not the planned attempt by any of the alleged perpetrators to avoid getting caught, rather the doing of a teenage relative of the victim who had a habit of taking out Kunal's father's two-wheeler without telling him.

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Noida Police on Thursday claimed to have cracked the kidnapping-murder case after the arrest of four persons, including a woman MBBS student. The police said Kunal's murder was planned by Manoj Sharma, 42, (also a relative of Kunal) and one Himanshu Chaudhary -- who was known to the victim.

The duo had taken loans from Kunal's father Krishna Kumar Sharma but were unable to repay it.

Himanshu's friend Kunal Bhati and his girlfriend Tanvi have also been arrested in the case, police said.

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"The CCTV inside the restaurant was found switched off. It could have helped police identify the culprits immediately. However, we had to go through CCTV footage from almost 200 different locations in Greater Noida and Noida to get a lead. This was an arduous task," a police officer involved in the probe told PTI.

"During the investigation, it was found that the CCTV at the restaurant was switched off by a relative of Kunal only. It was a silly coincidence but at the time of the probe, we could not risk considering anything as a coincidence. When questioned, the relative said he used to take out the two-wheeler of Kunal's father without permission and that is why he often switched off the CCTV to not get caught," the officer added.

The teenage relative, who was unconnected to the murder, kept changing his answers when asked about his whereabouts at the time of the incident, according to the police.

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"He first said he had gone to drink juice, then he said he went for some personal work and made multiple such excuses before admitting that he would often take out the two-wheeler for a spin without the knowledge of Kunal's father and switch off the CCTV for that duration," the officer said.

Kunal's body was found in a canal in the adjoining Bulandshahr district on May 5 while the police revealed details of the case finally on May 9 after arresting all four accused and recovering evidence.

Besides the missing CCTV footage, the police were also posed with some other challenges in working out the case even though 11 teams involving scores of cops worked on analysing footage, and technical and manual surveillance under the supervision of senior IPS officers.

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The accused, according to police, had also drawn ideas from a Hindi film -- Netflix's 2022 film 'Hit-The First Case' -- in their unsuccessful bid to execute a "perfect crime".

Additional Commissioner of Police Babloo Kumar said, "The accused watched a movie on Netflix from which they learnt tricks on how to hide and destroy evidence so that law enforcement agencies could be misled." "They used some of those tricks in the crime, like changing stickers on the car, window films, changing their own dresses, removing their fingerprints from the dead body and the trolley bag. They also learnt how to dispose of their mobile phones. All these tricks they learnt from the movie," Kumar said.

Asked if the accused were able to destroy the evidence, Kumar said, they could only delay the investigation.

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"But I would commend the police team that they have collected each and every evidence. Now it's a challenge for our investigating officer to connect those evidence, explain them and file a charge sheet in the court so that the case could be taken up effectively," he said.

According to police, the body was stuffed inside a trolley bag and transported to Bulandshahr where the accused dumped it in the canal after removing all clothes from it.

They wanted to remove all marks from the clothes and the body. After dumping the body, they kept the trolley bag to ensure that they could not be traced by it, the police said.

They also kept changing stickers and other identification marks, including the registration number of the car to avoid getting caught, police added. PTI KIS SKY SKY

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