Live-in partner held for killing woman, stuffing her body in suitcase

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Mumbai, Nov 21 (PTI) The Mumbai police have cracked the murder case of a woman, whose body was found stuffed in a suitcase in Mumbai's Kurla area two days back, with the arrest of her live-in partner, an official said on Tuesday.

The accused Askar Manoj Barla (22) was arrested on Monday for allegedly strangulating Pratima Pawal Kispatta (25) on Saturday evening on the suspicion of having an affair with another person, he said.

The duo hailed from Odisha and got acquainted while returning to their state from Mumbai during the coronavirus-induced lockdown. They were currently living in Dharavi area of Mumbai, he said.

"The Mumbai police have cracked the murder case of the woman whose body was found stuffed in the suitcase at Kurla. Barla was arrested by a team of the crime branch comprising Units 5 and 11 when he was about to escape to his hometown in Odisha," the official said.

Barla was nabbed by the officials of Unit-11 of the crime branch from Thane railway station within 36 hours of registration of the offence of murder, he said.

"Pratima's body stuffed in a suitcase was found on Sunday morning on CST Road bridge at Chembur-Santacruz Road at Kurla West, where Metro project work was going on," he added.

Barla and Kispatta hailed from Odisha and were staying in nearby villages. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they happened to meet each other while travelling on a bus to Odisha and fell in love. After returning to Mumbai, both of them started living together in Dharavi, he said.

While Barla worked in a sweet mart, Pratima worked as a maid. However, since the last couple of months she was at home, he said.

"Barla suspected that his live-in partner was in an affair with another person, due to which there used to be altercations between them," DCP (Detection) Raj Tilak Roshan told media in a briefing.

On Saturday evening, both had a fight, following which Barla strangled her in the fit of rage and killed her. After her murder, Barla decided to dispose of the body by stuffing it in a suitcase, he said.

"Accordingly, he put her body in the suitcase and took an autorickshaw for Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT) in the early hours of Sunday. He planned to take her body out of Mumbai from there," the official said.

After reaching the LTT, Barla changed his mind and left the station with the suitcase. While going towards Kurla west, he found that the Metro project work was going on and barricades were placed. He kept the suitcase behind the barricade and again went to the LTT, where he waited for some time, and in the morning he took the Godan Express to go out of the city leaving the suitcase at that spot, another official said.

As he realised that Godan Express does not go to Odisha, he got down at Thane, where he purchased new tickets for Odisha, and till the time of the train's arrival, he was roaming in Thane city and also purchased a new SIM card for his mobile phone, he said.

As the photo of the deceased woman was circulated on social media platforms, an official of Mumbai crime branch received a call from the deceased woman's sister from Odisha, and she also provided vital information about the case, he said.

The crime branch of the Mumbai police, which was probing the case at the time, had examined the CCTV footage of the various places at the spot and LTT station and zeroed in on the accused person. With the help of technical support, the crime branch officials rushed to the Thane station and nabbed the accused while he was at Thane Railway Station area, before he could board the train, which was going to Odisha, he said.

He was then brought to Mumbai crime branch, where he admitted the murder of his female partner, he said.

As the deceased woman had a rosary in her neck, the Mumbai police had also circulated her photograph between the Christian community members and churches in Mumbai, from where the police team got first leads to identify her, the official said.

A priest from a church identified the woman and the police got the address of her residence, he said, adding at her residence police team got her Aadhaar card and other details, he said.

Accused Barla was arrested by the crime branch team and further probe into the case is underway, he said. PTI DC NP

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