The Twists and Turns of Sheena Bora Murder Case

Six years ago on this very day, a 24-year-old girl was allegedly strangled to death, her body dumped in a pit in a remote district in Maharashtra and later burnt.

This was allegedly planned down to the last detail by one Indrani Mukherjea, the former founder of the scandal-embroiled INX Media, who reportedly made sure that the murder of her daughter, Sheena Bora was not traced back to her.

Indrani, who was 43 at the time, allegedly had two accomplices to help her carry out the crime, according to the charge-sheets that were filed by the CBI later. One was her ex-husband, Kolkata-based Sanjeev Khanna. The other was her driver, Shyamwar Rai.

The Sheena Bora murder case has left the Indian – and even international – media perplexed. The case, even six years later, is one of the most discussed and debated.

Who Was Sheena Bora?

Mikhail (left), Indrani (centre) and Sheena (right). 

Sheena Bora was Indrani’s daughter from her first marriage with Siddharth Das from Tripura. Indrani had another child, a son Mikhail, with Das.

According to a charge-sheet which was later filed by the CBI, Indrani had told both Sheena and Mikhail that they were to be introduced as her sister and brother, as she didn’t want to harm either her growing reputation in the industry or her business.

Sheena and Mikhail were initially kept in the care of Indrani’s parents in Guwahati, before she got them to move to Mumbai. Meanwhile, Indrani had married Kolkata businessman Sanjeev Khanna, with whom she had a daughter – Vidhie.

Sheena and Indrani reportedly had an extremely strained relationship. A report by India Today quotes a page from Sheena’s diary, where as a child she had written:

"Oh! Happy Birthday to me! But I am not happy. It seems as if I have got nothing in my life. Nothing! My future seems very bleak to me. Just depression has encircled me from all sides. Disgusting life it is. I hate my mother, that bloody b***h. She is not a mother. She is a witch..." - A page from Sheena Bora’s diary

Soon after Sheena moved to Mumbai, she got a job at Mumbai Metro One. Around this time, Indrani had married her third husband, business mogul Peter Mukerjea, who was reportedly 16 years her senior, Scroll reports.

Sheena eventually crossed paths with Rahul Mukerjea, one of Peter’s two sons from his first marriage.

Sheena and Rahul. 

The duo got close and soon started a relationship, something both Peter and Indrani have publicly stated they were opposed to.

Indrani had allegedly tried to break off the relationship several times, and according to a report by News18, she even called Sheena’s ex-boyfriend Kaustabh Saikia who wished to make amends and asked him to take Sheena with him to Bengaluru.

At this point of time, the report says that Sheena’s health was deteriorating and she had little choice but to listen to her mother. However, she managed to get through to Rahul once she was in Bangalore, and the couple were soon reunited.

How Did the Mumbai Police Crack the Case?

In his book The Sheena Bora Case, author and journalist Manish Pachouly, narrates in detail how Sheena had allegedly been murdered, based on the available investigative reports on the case.

An excerpt from the book, which was published on DailyO, stated that Indrani had reached out to Sheena in the pretext of making amends after their fallout on the topic of her relationship with Rahul. She had asked Sheena to meet her in front of a reputed sari shop in Bandra, where Rahul dropped her off on the evening of 24 April 2012.

According to what the author has relayed in his book:

Indrani met Sheena, took her to the shop, offered her a glass of water that was spiked with a sedative and took her back to the car. Once the sedative kicked in, and Sheena became visibly drowsy, Indrani instructed Rai, who had already been briefed about the murder on Skype earlier, to take the car to a quiet lane in Bandra, where both Rai and Khanna held Sheena down while Indrani strangled her own daughter to death.

The next plan of action was to get rid of the body. For that night, Indrani decided to keep it in the backseat of her car outside her apartment in Worli. Early next morning, the trio drove down with the body to Pen, an obscure small town in Raigad district. They dumped the body in a steep drop and poured an entire can of petrol on it, burning what she thought was the last of the evidence.

In 2015, Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria received an anonymous phone call, and he was told that Sheena Bora had been missing for the past three years. A report by Mid-day sad that Maria asked PI Dinesh Kadam from Khar police station to start investigations, who while looking to the case, began to turn his suspicions towards Indrani.

Rakesh Maria. 

The police put Indrani under surveillance but did not approach her directly. On 21 August 2015, they picked up her driver Rai, in connection with an illegal arms case, but questioned him about Sheena’s disappearance instead.

In the midst of interrogations, Rai cracked and confessed to his role in the murder, telling them that Indrani was the mastermind behind the murder, and was helped by Khanna.

On 25 August 2015, the police picked up Indrani from her Worli residence. While she denied the charges at first, she later broke down and confessed as well, when Rai was asked to recount his statement in front of her.

A day later, Khanna was arrested from his residence in New Alipore in Kolkata.

How Did No One Know About Sheena’s Disappearance?

The surprising part of this extremely convoluted case was that although Sheena had been murdered in 2012, it was hidden from the police till 2015.

No missing persons report had been filed, and Indrani and Peter would allegedly give vague and contradictory statements to Rahul and others who would ask about her whereabouts.

Sheena Bora. 

Indrani had allegedly taken Sheena’s phone and sent Rahul messages as Sheena, breaking off the relationship and saying she didn’t want anything to do with him.

According to a report by NDTV, a month after Sheena’s body had been burnt in Raigad, locals of the area found the remains and alerted the local police. However, the police had then dismissed the body as unclaimed and buried it without gathering forensic evidence.

Why did they not go by procedure?

According to Scroll, there was an IPS officer who was key in hushing up the case in 2012, when Sheena’s body was first found, a month after she was killed.

A report put forth by the CBI said that this officer had allegedly called RD Shinde, the then Superintendent of Police, Raigad district and in charge of Pen police station, telling him to drop the case.

RD Shinde then allegedly told Subhash Mirge, an inspector at Pen police station, to not speak a word about the case and to not register an FIR for “either murder or for a case of accidental death.”

What Was the Motive?

Picture of accused, Sanjeev Khanna, ex-husband of Indrani Mukerjea. 

So assuming that Indrani did kill her daughter in 2012, what was the reason? And why did Rai and Khanna want Sheena to disappear forever? How would that benefit them?

So far, three chargesheets have been filed in this case, an article on Rediff reports:

  • The first charge-sheet, which was filed on 19 November 2015, states that the CBI had named Indrani, Khanna, and Rai as accused in the case. Rai later turned approver. According to investigators, Sheena's relationship with Rahul as well as certain financial dealings that would affect Indrani and Peter directly if they were to get married, were the possible reasons for her murder.
  • The second charge-sheet was filed on 16 February 2016 against Peter for his alleged role in Sheena’s murder.
  • The third charge-sheet that was filed by the CBI in October 2016 stated that Indrani had consulted with Sanjeev Khanna the possibility that the entire property might go to Sheena and Rahul if they were married. This would mean that their daughter Vidhie would not receive any of the property.
Indrani and her daughter, Vidhie. 

The CBI also told the court of Metropolitan Magistrate in Mumbai that Peter Mukherjea was involved in the conspiracy with his wife and had misled his son Rahul to hide the fact that Sheena was murdered. It based this on email correspondence between Peter and Rahul.

The central probe agency, represented by Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, also told the court that Peter was in continuous conversation with Indrani when she was doing a recce of where to dump the body a day before the murder. She also spoke to him through and following the course of Sheena’s murder, even though he was reported to have been in London at the time.

There was a dispute between Sheena and Indrani, and Peter had acted as a mediator, Singh told the court.

Singh said that Rahul and Sheena were about to get married and "after that she (Sheena) could have got a share of property. And they (CBI) are looking into this (angle).”

Was Peter Mukerjea in the Know?

File image of media mogul Peter Mukerjea. 

One of the most controversial parts of the case is the involvement of Peter Mukerjea. The former Star CEO had initially claimed that he had no knowledge of the murder and as reported by Scroll, stated that he didn’t even know that Sheena was Indrani’s daughter for a long time. He had also said that he wasn’t opposed to Sheena and Rahul’s match and had shown emails between his son and him to the CBI to prove it.

However, according to the same report, Rakesh Maria said that Peter had told him that “I knew there was a plot, something was being planned by Indrani.” 

He knew that Khanna had landed in Mumbai for some “special” work with Indrani and that she had, without an explanation, hired a car from an agency that was known to both of them.

The report mentions a further motive for the media tycoon’s possible involvement in his wife’s plans.

According to the CBI, the couple had allegedly siphoned off funds worth Rs 900 crore from their company, 9X Media, through a layer of nine other companies – an amount which was reportedly routed to Sheena Bora’s HSBC account in Singapore.

Peter Mukerjea gets escorted after being produced by the CBI at the Esplanade court in Mumbai a few months ago. Image used for representational purposes.

According to Scroll, Peter was later asked to sit for a polygraph test, which indicated that he harboured deep-seated mistrust and disillusionment for Indrani. This contradicted his earlier recorded statements where he professed to have blind faith and belief in his wife, which is why he took her word that Sheena was her sister.

The CBI arrested Peter on 19 November 2015, reports The Indian Express, and within three months, had filed a 56-page supplementary chargesheet which charged Peter with different IPC sections pertaining to murder, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence.

Where Does the Case Stand Now?

Indrani and Peter. 

The case has spiralled into unimaginable proportions since it first came to light in 2015. Since then, the judicial custodies of the accused have been extended at different times, emails and phone-calls between Peter, Indrani and Rahul have suggested that the couple were indeed guilty of conspiring to kill Sheena, the accused were questioned by the CBI in prison and almost all their bail pleas rejected at different times.

Meanwhile, reputations of both Peter and Indrani, as corporate media honchos and high-class socialites, naturally took a massive hit.

Reports about their alleged philandering and other scandals began to raise their heads. In September 2016, Peter’s plea to defer the framing of charges was rejected by a special CBI court.

In October, 2016, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devandra Fadnavis had said that ex-cop Rakesh Maria, who was leading the investigation into the case, had said that Peter was not guilty for the crime he was being charged for, reports PTI.

Indrani and Peter were married in 2002. 

In December 2016, Indrani was granted bail for a day so she could go attend her father’s funeral.

Around the same time, in what appears to be a strategic change of heart, Indrani had said that she wished to donate her organs and 75 percent of her property, citing her deteriorating health, reported NDTV.

On 17 January 2017, both Peter and Indrani were charged with murder and conspiracy, with the trial slated to begin on 1 February 2017. The same day, Indrani told the court that she wished for a divorce from Peter. 

Indrani Mukerjea, the prime suspect in the Sheena Bora murder case. 

On 24 June 2017, Indrani was among the 200 women who were rioting inside the prison protesting the death of inmate Manju Govind Shette who was allegedly beaten up by a woman constable and later succumbed to her injuries.

As reported by NDTV, in November 2017, Indrani said that Peter had killed Sheena out of “greed, betrayal, jealousy and ill-will”. Peter, in turn, said she was “playing the victim” and was trying to “wriggle” out of the murder charges against her. Indrani, however, soon changed her statement, and said that she had blamed her husband due to “inadvertent stress”.

Karti Chidambaram leaves Patiala House Court after he was remanded to five-day CBI custody in the INX Media case, in New Delhi on Thursday.

When the INX Media case, involving Karti Chidamabaram, came to light earlier this year, the court allowed the CBI court to get 5-day custody of Peter.

In April, Indrani was hospitalised in Mumbai’s JJ Hospital after taking a large proportion of an anti-depressant drug called benzodiazepine. Meanwhile, her personal assistant Kajal Sharma recently confessed that Indrani had made her forge Sheena’s signature on resignation papers that were sent to Mumbai Metro One after she was murdered.

On 23 April, a day prior to the one when Sheena was murdered six years ago, her body dumped and burnt in Rajgad, Indrani told the court that she could be in grave danger. “I fear for my life,” she said.

. Read more on Explainers by The Quint.The Twists and Turns of Sheena Bora Murder CaseIPL 2018 LIVE: Chasing Hyderabad’s 118, Mumbai Reduced to 21/3 . Read more on Explainers by The Quint.