“Was shaken when I saw the bruises…”: Shraddha Walkar’s former associate

Shraddha’s injured face in a photo she shared with friends.

Mumbai/New Delhi:

Karan, the colleague Karan to whom Shraddha Walkar told two years ago about an attack by her friend Aftab Poonawala, said today he had the impression that after the intervention of the police and Aftab’s parents, they had split up. Karan said he tried to help her at the time and looked for her for a few weeks but has now seen on the news that Aftab allegedly murdered Shraddha in May this year.

“November 2020 was the first time I learned about domestic violence. Before that, she often called in sick,” said Karan, her team manager, while working at a call center near her hometown of Vasai in Mumbai.

“In the chat on WhatsApp I told her to send me a photo. I was very shocked and heartbroken to see how someone could treat her so poorly. She had bruises under her right eye … also on her neck,” he told NDTV. “Later, a friend I contacted to help her told me she had burn marks on her stomach.”

Screenshots of her chat show, he offered to help her – he said she could be with his mother and sister for immediate safety – apart from helping her contact the police. He said he knew Shraddha and Aftab were married since she referred to him as her husband.

“After going to the police, she filed a written complaint. But in the meantime she spoke to Aftab and he told her he would hurt himself (if she left). She also went to his parents and they told that he was moving out of the house (which he and Shraddha had rented together) and that he would cut all ties and never bother her. Only after that did she think about not filing a complaint with the police,” Karan said.

“I’ve been checking every week or two to make sure she’s safe, to make sure she’s not going through the same thing again. We got the impression he wasn’t with her anymore,” he added.

“I don’t know how they got back together later. I didn’t know that she had moved to Delhi. When all of this was on the news, I found out about it,” he added.

Shraddha, 26, and Aftab, 28, both call center workers, had moved to Delhi in May and four days later, after another argument over spending and infidelity, he strangled them to death and later dismembered the body into 35 pieces, which he Stored in a refrigerator for 18 days and dumped in a jungle, police said.

The crime was exposed last month when her father – who had not spoken to her since May 2021 as he did not approve of her interfaith (Hindu-Muslim) relationship with Aftab – went to the police when her friends alerted him that she hadn’t had any contact with them for months.

When she left the job in March 2021, she told Karan that she got a new job at a content writing company that would give her travel opportunities. “I was very happy for her that she had all the time in the world to pursue a career. She was very young, only 23 or 24.”

A month before changing jobs, she had told a doctor about her depression and how her boyfriend Aftab was violent over minor issues. She told him she feared he might harm her, himself, or both.

Karan said he hasn’t received a call from police yet, but “I’ll be ready to help if they contact me”.

“I just want to say to all the girls living alone – and it’s not about religion, whether it’s Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian, no matter what race or caste – don’t isolate; always keep in touch with friends and family,” he said. “There is always someone who supports you. It’s better to get out of an abusive relationship.”

Aftab was sent to police custody for five more days by a Delhi court on November 17, as police said key evidence – such as identifiable body parts, the knife he used, her clothes from the day of the murder and Shraddha’s phone – would be found will.

Police have also been given permission to conduct a narcoanalysis, a chemical-based lie detection test that could lead police to physical evidence and corroborate his alleged confession.

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