Navi Mumbai: Death of an eight-year-old girl in a suspected animal attack in a village at Khalapur turned out to be a murder.
The accused has been identified as Ajay Vijay Chavan, 18.
The incident took place on December 18 when Kargaon village in Khambewadi of Khalapur taluka had gram panchayat elections and also a cricket tournament between various villages. The girl’s father had set up a vada pav stall at the cricket ground. When he ran out of gram flour after a while, he asked his daughter to go and fetch some flour from their home.
The girl set out for her home, but when she did not return after hours, the family began searching for her. They eventually found her body in a bushy area en route to their home.
“Initially it was speculated that it could be an animal attack as it is a forested area. We sent the body to JJ Hospital, where a panel of five doctors conducted the post-mortem. They informed us that the cause of death was strangulation, confirming murder,” Somnath Gharge, Raigad superintendent of police, said.
The area where the body was found was not covered by CCTV. A team, consisting 20 police inspectors from various police stations in Raigad and 100 staff, was formed to investigate the case.
“We believed that the accused could be a local since whoever killed her certainly knew this particular route. There were around 45 families that resided in the village and we started doing a background check of each one and interrogating them. Then we started focusing on the people who said that they saw the girl that day, while she was going to the shop and zeroed in on the boy who saw her last,” Dayanand Gawade, police inspector, local crime branch, Raigad, said.
“The boy kept changing his statement and seemed to be scared. During interrogation, he confessed to the crime,” Gharge added.
The accused was a class X drop-out and stayed with his aunt in the village, while his parents lived in Karad in western Maharashtra.
The accused had been staying with his aunt since the Covid lockdown period and knew the girl. When the boy saw her going on the route alone that day, he tried to rape her. When the girl shouted for help and told him that she would complain to her father, the accused strangulated her and then smashed her face with a rock. The accused has been remanded in police custody till December 31.