HOURS AFTER 21-year-old Divya Pahuja, a wanted accused in the Sandeep Gadoli fake encounter case, decided to secure her future by pursuing further education, Mumbai Police investigators arrested her along with her mother Sonia from their Baldev Nagar residence in Gurgaon on Thursday.
Divya, the only other person who was in the hotel room in Mumbai where the Haryana-based gangster was shot dead by a team of Gurgaon policemen in February this year, had been absconding for nearly two months now.
The police got their first clue about her whereabouts when she switched on her mobile phone after reaching Ambedkar University in Delhi, reportedly to get some details about admissions in a Bachelor of Arts course.
After locating her, the Mumbai Police SIT, which has been set up to investigate the case, with help of local police, arrested her and her mother Sonia Pahuja within a few hours.An officer who was in the team that was searching for the Pahujas said Divya had switched on her mobile phone for a brief period on Wednesday evening while she was at Ambedkar University. “By the time the police team reached, she had left,” the officer said.
However, based on the leads they got from technical surveillance, the team tracked her down to her Baldev Nagar residence in Gurgaon. The police also found out that she had booked a cab to leave her house early Thursday morning.
“So, the police team with the help of local police eventually arrested her in the morning. Her mother Sonia was also at the house,” the officer said.
A source said Divya, despite repeated advice from friends about how she should not go to college, had insisted on going as Thursday was one of the last days for admission.
A senior Mumbai Police Crime Branch officer confirmed that the mother-daughter duo was arrested from Haryana. Until now, three persons, all policemen, have been arrested in the case.
With the arrest of the mother-daughter duo, there are only three more wanted persons in the case who the police are yet to track.
An officer said that the arrest of the two women — mainly Divya — was extremely significant. “While the CCTV footage did capture parts of the encounter, it did not capture what exactly happened inside the hotel room where the encounter took place,” the officer said. “Divya was the only eyewitness.”
Another officer added that apart from getting details about what transpired in the hotel room, Divya and Sonia’s interrogation would reveal other vital details about the conspiracy to kill Gadoli.
“Their interrogation will either lead to more persons being named as accused in the case or we may wrap up our investigation,” the officer added.
The police probe had revealed that Divya, who was with Gadoli, used to pass on their location, including photographs of the place where she was staying, to Sonia via WhatsApp.
Sonia allegedly gave this information to Manoj Binder — another accused in the case — who in turn alerted the Gurgaon raiding team. “Several pages of WhatsApp conversations have been found,” the officer said.
Gadoli, a Gurgaon-based gangster, was shot dead by Police Sub-Inspector Pradhuman Yadav’s team inside Hotel Airport Metro, located near Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.
While the Gurgaon police team claimed that they had fired in self-defence, the SIT formed by the Mumbai police concluded that the encounter was fake, and filed an FIR against eight people, including five policemen from Gurgaon. Family members of Gadoli had alleged that a rival gangster in Haryana had paid the Gurgaon police team to bump off Gadoli.
So far, the interrogation of PSI Pradhuman Yadav and two of his subordinates has not helped the SIT much, officers said. The police have the custody of Yadav till Saturday while Vikram Singh and Jitender Yadav are in custody till Monday. The mother daughter duo will be produced before the court for custody on Friday.