(From Agence France-Presse)
A former media executive in India has been arrested on suspicion of murdering her daughter for having an affair with the executive’s stepson.
Indrani Mukerjea is accused of strangling Sheena Bora, dumping her body in a forest in western Maharashtra state and setting it alight in 2012.
“We have arrested two accused, the other is her driver Shyam Rai,” said the deputy police commissioner Dhananjay Kulkarni. “After they appeared in court, we got custody until August 31.”
Kulkarni said a third suspect, Sanjeev Khanna, reported to be a former husband of Mukerjea, had been arrested in Kolkata in West Bengal state on suspicion of involvement in the murder.
Rai told police that Khanna had strangled Sheena.
“We are trying to get remand from a Kolkata court to bring him to Mumbai,” Kulkarni said.
Indrani, a co-founder and former executive of the Mumbai-based television company INX Media, is currently married to Peter Mukerjea, a former Star India CEO, who is believed to be her third husband.
Indian media widely reported Khanna to be Indrani’s second husband, while the victim was her daughter from a previous relationship.
Media had also reported that Sheena was the sister of Indrani. Initially, Indrani seems to have made her husband and stepson believe that Sheena was her sister.
India’s newspapers and TV news channels were abuzz with details of the scandal Thursday with many carrying complex family trees illustrating who’s who in the case.
Kulkarni said new information had come to light that led police to make the arrests more than three years after the killing.
Police believe the motive for the killing was Indrani’s dislike of her daughter’s apparent relationship with Rahul Mukerjea, Peter’s son from a previous marriage.
“It was an honour killing because Sheena was having an affair with Rahul, which was not liked by Indrani,” he said. “The prima facie evidence suggests this was the reason for the murder.”
Between Wednesday night and Thursday morning, Mumbai Police twice questioned Rahul.
Meanwhile, Rahul’s father tried to clear the air as the case turned curiouser and curiouser.
Expressing his shock and dismay after hearing the charges against Indrani, Peter told a channel that he so much loves and believes his wife that it is hard to digest the matter.
However, he said, initially he had no idea Sheena was her daughter.
“I … was told before marriage that Indrani has a brother and sister … Sheena used to call me ‘jeeju’ …,” he said.
His son Rahul too believed her.
“Just before my niece got married in 2011, I met with Sheena and Rahul in Bombay — and she had said ‘I’m actually her daughter, and Indrani has told me not to share this with anyone, but I cannot live with this life….,'” he said.
When he questioned his wife, she denied it saying it was “rubbish and being fed to her (Sheena)”.
On the strained relationship between Indrani and Sheena, he said the two had disagreements as Indrani could not approve of her daughter’s relationship with Rahul. She thought Sheena could do better. Moreover, she felt her husband was encouraging the young couple.
He said Indrani showed him a mail purportedly written by Sheena which said she was unhappy with her relationship with Rahul and she wanted to move on.
As per the plan, Indrani was to meet Sheena along with her Guwahait-based son Mikhail Bora and the three were to proceed to their ancestral home in Assam. Sheen was to leave for US from there.
According to Peter, he went to Los Angeles (LA) but he did not bother to ask his wife where in LA she lived.
Meanwhile, Mikhail said he feared for his life and could be the “next target” even as investigators were working to unravel the complexities in the case.
“I fear I’ll be the next target and, if the police summon me to Mumbai, I want my friends to accompany me as the Mukerjeas are very high-profile and anything can happen to me,” Mikhail told reporters outside his grandparents’ house in Guwahati in Assam.
He said police had not contacted him so far, but if they did, he would cooperate with them in every possible way.
So-called honour killings are still carried out in India when families disapprove of relationships to protect what is seen as family pride.
Bora, 22, was killed in April 2012 and her burnt body was discovered the following month in woods near the town of Pen, according to Kulkarni.
“She had been strangled and petrol had been poured over the body before it was set on fire,” he said.
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