For five months, the Osmanabad police were unable to solve the murder of a 26-year-old unidentified woman whose body—with her legs tied and several stab wounds—was found stuffed in a gunny bag in a well in Wagholi village on December 20, 2015.

The next morning, a farmer who owned the well saw the gunny bag with human legs jutting out of it and alerted the police. Two investigating officers were changed over the course of five months and the local Osmanabad Rural police were still groping in the dark for clues.

The crime, numbered 174/2015, got a push after Raj Tilak Roushan, an IPS officer who as the then assistant deputy superintendent in Tuljapur was given additional charge of Osmanabad city. Roushan is currently posted as DCP (Traffic) in Mumbai.

A tag, 18,000 phone numbers

Roushan started reviewing unsolved crimes and came across the case of the body of the unidentified woman found in the well. He started scrutinising evidence collected from the spot. “While reading the case files, I learnt she was wearing a dress with a tag of ‘Jaipur Rurti’. I then saw the photographs of the woman with the tag and realised it was a Jaipur Kurti and the officer confused K with R because of its design.”

Assuming the deceased may have bought the dress online, Roushan contacted the company which said it also partners with e-shopping platforms to sell its products. Roushan took a chance and sent emails to Flipkart, Amazon, and other online platforms asking them to provide data on all customers who had bought similar dresses.

Flipkart replied saying 18,000 such kurtis were sold by them, Amazon said they had sold seven of them, and others were yet to reply. Roushan collected the mobile numbers of all 18,000 Flipkart customers. He then obtained the dump data from the mobile towers near the crime spot and got information about all the phone numbers that were active there around the time of the murder.

They then conducted an auto search to see if there were any common mobile numbers and found one such number. The number belonged to Prakash Chapekar, 36, an ex-military serviceman, who served in the Indian Army for seven and half years and was relieved from duty in 2008.

Identifying the victim

Even as Roushan knew he had got the murderer, the victim still remained unidentified. A police team led by Roushan tracked down Chapekar, who was working as a branch officer in a security services company in Nagpur. Chapekar was shown a photo of the woman and he denied knowing her. After a bit of questioning, Chapekar identified her as Kanchan Pardeshi, 26, his former colleague.

The team asked him if he knew where she lived and he gave them her address. It went to Pardeshi’s home in Pune in June 2016 and her family identified her from her photos. Her mother told Roushan Pardeshi had left home in July 2015 in search of a job but never returned. The same night her family had filed a missing complaint with the local police. The woman’s uncle told the police she had an affair with Chapekar. Pardeshi’s mother told the police they were “god sent”.

After her family recognised her from the photos, the DNA samples taken from her disposed body helped them scientifically ascertain her identity. During the course of their investigation, the police also learnt that Chapekar was married to Pratibha, 28, and had three children with her. He was having an affair with Pardeshi and the two were in a live-in relationship in Nagpur until the day of her murder, they found. Chapekar had introduced Pardeshi as his wife to his colleague and landlord.

Chapekar was arrested in June 2016 and further probe revealed he committed the murder with the help of his wife and wife’s brother, Datta Lohar, 29, a resident of Wagholi, where the murder took place. Pratibha was arrested on charges of hatching a conspiracy and the police said she coordinated as a link between her husband and her brother.

Live-in relationship to murder

Pardeshi, an MBA graduate, began working for a company in 2010 in Pune where Chapekar was her boss. They fell in love and Chapekar abandoned his wife and started living with Pardeshi. In 2012, Chapekar’s father registered a non-cognizable complaint against his son for cheating on his wife.

In 2014, because of the fights with Chapekar, Pardeshi consumed poison and was in the ICU for eight days, according to the police. After she recovered, Pardeshi’s parents took her away and tried to look for a match. On the other hand, Chapekar left his job and moved to Nagpur leaving behind his wife and children in Pune.

Pardeshi broke her engagement and left home in July 2015 and started living with Chapekar again in Nagpur. Chapekar’s wife Pratibha on a surprise visit to Nagpur found out the two were again living together. Chapekar, Pratibha, and her brother Lohar then decided to murder Pardeshi.

On December 19, 2015, Chapekar took Pardeshi on a long ride in his car from Nagpur to Osmanabad, 600 km away. Lohar got into the car posing as a mechanic and on the pretext of taking the vehicle to a garage, they took it to a secluded forest area. Lohar caught Pardeshi’s hands and Chapekar slit her throat with a knife and stabbed her in the back, chest, and other vital parts, according to the police.

After committing the murder, Chapekar posted about a game called ‘Target dead’ on Facebook and also an advertisement to sell his car. The police managed to recover the car and found that Chapekar tried to get it repaired and the mechanic spotted blood stains on it. When asked about the stains, Chapekar told the mechanic his wife suffered a head injury after they were attacked by dacoits. The mechanic was among the 33 witnesses whose statements were recorded and a charge sheet was filed.

Four years and eight months after Pardeshi’s murder, a trial was completed by a sessions court. On August 14, 2020, additional sessions judge N H Makhare convicted the trio for murder, conspiracy, and destruction of evidence and sentenced them to imprisonment for the rest of their lives.

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