Delhi food blogger allegedly hacked girlfriend into pieces –

Aftab Amin Poonawala (left) had strangled Ms Shraddha Walkar and then cut her body into at least 35 pieces. The Straits Times/Asia News Network

BENGALURU, India – Police in Delhi have arrested a 28-year-old man for allegedly killing his live-in partner, cutting her into pieces and dumping them across the capital.

The murder investigation has revealed a bloody cover-up and a history of domestic violence, which the victim is said to have been trying to escape from before she was killed.

The accused, Aftab Amin Poonawala, a chef and fitness blogger, lived in a rented house in Delhi with Ms. Shraddha Walkar, a 27-year-old call center employee, since May this year.

The couple had met through the dating app Bumble in 2019 in Mumbai, where they are both from.

Ankit Chauhan, a senior police official in Delhi’s south district, said police have so far recovered about a dozen body parts from the Mehrauli forest on the city’s outskirts, near the couple’s residence.

“The recovered parts have been sent for DNA testing. Search is on for the other missing parts,” Chauhan said.

The case came to light when her father, Mr. Sharad Walkar, complained to the Mumbai police that his daughter was missing.

Mr Walkar, who lives in Mumbai, was worried because his boyfriend of three years had allegedly been abusive.

On November 9, the Mumbai police contacted their counterparts in Delhi.

“At first, Aftab said that they had had a fight and she had left him. But after sustained interrogation, she confessed that she had killed him,” Chauhan said, estimating that the killing took place in mid of May

The police arrested Mr. Poonawala on November 12. Forensic teams combed the couple’s home as well as neighboring areas, including the woods where they recovered the “severed bones.” He remains in police custody.

The latest police state memo on the incident said Mr Poonawala had strangled Ms Walkar and then cut her body into at least 35 pieces. Mr Chauhan said the accused “used the lean period of the night” to leave the house and dump the body parts in the forest for 16 to 18 days.

Poonawala told police he was “inspired” by the American TV show Dexter, whose protagonist is a serial killer.

Police reported that they used Google searches to find ways to clean up the blood-stained floor, bought a refrigerator to preserve body parts and used incense sticks to prevent the foul smell from alerting neighbors.

The investigative team has yet to find any convincing evidence such as a murder weapon or the victim’s phone, nor have they come up with a clear motive for the gruesome murder.

There have been conflicting reports in the Indian media about what led to the alleged murder.

Some police sources have told the media that the couple often fought because Ms Walkar wanted to get married, while others said she was trying to break up with the accused. The official state police report, however, said that “at this time, it will be premature to provide a single theory that will stand the test of judicial scrutiny.”

In the police complaint, Mr Walkar, 59, said that before moving in with her boyfriend, his daughter lived in Mumbai with her younger brother and mother, who died in 2020.

Ms Walkar had been estranged from her father since 2019 because he disapproved of their relationship.

“I am a Hindu and the boy is a Muslim, and we do not believe in interfaith marriage,” Walkar’s complaint said.

She told police that after her mother’s death, Ms Walkar had admitted she wanted to leave Mr Poonawala because he beat her regularly, but moved in with him to Delhi after he apologised.

Some of Ms Walkar’s friends came forward when her phone remained switched off for more than two months, although her Instagram account remained active.

Police said Mr Poonawala operated his social media to cover up his disappearance. The ardent food blogger and photographer has over 28,000 followers on Instagram.

The gruesome details of the “Delhi fridge murder”, as some Indian channels are calling the case, have sparked divisive anti-Muslim rhetoric and sexist comments from politicians who blamed the victim for choosing a cohabiting relationship in defiance of their parents

Cohabiting relationships are legal in India, and courts extend the same rights to cohabiting women as married women, including property rights for their children and protection from domestic violence. But much of Indian society still sees it as a taboo.

The alleged killing has also revived the debate about widespread domestic violence in the country.

One in three women in the 18-49 age group in the country faces intimate partner violence, which only grew exponentially as women were locked in homes with their abusers during the lockdowns induced by pandemic, according to official data from the 2021 National Family Health Survey.


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