New Delhi: A 24-year-old man strangled his girlfriend, stuffed her body inside a refrigerator of his dhaba (eatery) in southwest Delhi, and went off to marry another woman the same day, police said on Tuesday.
Accused Sahil Gehlot, a resident of Mitraon village in southwest Delhi, has been arrested, they said.
The incident came to light on Valentine's Day and it was on the instance of the accused that four days after the murder, the 23-year-old woman's body was recovered on Tuesday morning from the refrigerator at the eatery, which was locked since the day of the incident.
Police said the accused had hidden the fact from his girlfriend Nikki Yadav that his marriage was fixed with another woman. When Nikki came to know about his wedding, she had a heated argument with the accused which led to her murder, they said.
"It has been claimed that she was threatening to implicate the man in a case if he married another woman," a source said.
The couple was in a relationship for the past few years and Nikki wanted to marry the accused, police said.
The incident took place on the intervening night of February 9 and 10 when the victim confronted the accused about his marriage, a senior police officer said, adding that he killed her using the data cable of his mobile phone in his car and then kept her body in a refrigerator at his dhaba.
Narrating the sequence of events, the officer said she was unhappy with the fact that he was getting married. On February 9 when he got engaged, she called him up and told him to come to her flat in Uttam Nagar.
"The accused went to the victim's place in his car and picked her up from there. She kept pressuring him to not get married.
"She had already planned to go with him to Goa and had booked tickets for February 9. She asked him to accompany her to Goa but he refused. This led to an argument and in anger, he killed her inside his car," the officer said.
The accused then took the body in his vehicle to the dhaba which had not been operational for a long time. After stuffing the body inside the fridge, he locked the dhaba, the officer added.
The body was found intact inside the refrigerator and started decomposing at a slow pace, police said, adding only strangulation marks were found on her body.
Police suspect that the accused committed the crime near Kashmere Gate but the location of the murder is yet to be verified.
Special Commissioner of Police (Crime) Ravindra Singh Yadav said that on February 10, a secret input was received that a person named Sahil Gehlot killed his girlfriend and married another girl on the day of the murder.
On checking, no case or complaint about the missing of any such woman was found to be reported, Yadav said.
As the mobile phone of the accused was found to be switched off, a police team reached Mitraon village but he was not present in his house after which an intensive search was made in the village and nearby area, the special commissioner of police said, adding the accused was later arrested from Kair village in Delhi.
"During interrogation, the accused initially tried to mislead police, but later he disclosed that he killed his girlfriend on the intervening night of February 9 and 10 and kept her body in a refrigerator at his dhaba," the officer said.
Revealing his association with Nikki, the officer said that the accused told investigators he was preparing for SSC exams at a coaching centre in Uttam Nagar in January 2018. At that time, the victim, a resident of Jhajjar in Haryana, was also preparing for a medical entrance examination from an institute in Uttam Nagar.
"Both of them used to travel to their respective institutes daily in the same bus and became friends and later on fell in love," he said.
In February 2018, the accused took admission in DPharma at a college in Greater Noida and his girlfriend also took admission in the same college in BA (English Hons.).
Thereafter, the couple started living together in Greater Noida in a rented house. They also travelled to several places such as Manali, Rishikesh, Haridwar and Dehradoon, he said.
"During Covid-induced lockdown, they returned to their homes. But later, they started living together again in a rented house in the Dwarka area. The accused did not inform his family members about this relationship with the victim. His family was pressuring him to get married to some other woman and finally, in December 2022, his engagement and marriage were fixed with another woman for February 9 and 10 respectively," the special commissioner of police said.
The postmortem was held on Wednesday at a hospital in Jaffarpur Kalan, police said.
A case under IPC sections 302 (murder) and 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of an offence committed, or giving false information to screen offender) has been registered at Baba Haridas Nagar police station and the investigation was conducted by the Crime Branch, police said.
CCTV footage of victim's last moments at home retrieved
Police on Wednesday retrieved footage from a CCTV camera installed at Nikki Yadav's Uttam Nagar house and it shows the 23-year-old performing menial tasks, hours before she was murdered.
The footage is from February 9, the day of her boyfriend Sahil Gehlot's engagement. Yadav allegedly called to meet Gehlot and express her displeasure at his decision to get married.
The first footage, which bears a timestamp of 1.10 pm, shows Yadav taking clothes upstairs to her rented home. The second footage, timestamped at 9.27 pm, shows her peeping out of a door of her rented house before leaving the premises. She is seen returning within a minute.
A senior police officer said, "We are looking into the CCTV footage and also scanning for more to collect evidence and ascertain the sequence of events that unfolded on the day of the murder."
Hang the culprit: Nikki's father
Waiting outside the mortuary of the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital here on Wednesday, Nikki's family members who had come from their village in Haryana's Jhajjar district, are yet to come to terms with the fact that their daughter, who was very ambitious and was preparing for her PhD, is no more.
While leaving their hometown, Nikki's father Sunil Yadav, who runs a motor repair business in Gurugram told media persons, "Our daughter is gone. She is no more. All we want now is justice. The culprit should be awarded the strictest punishment and should be hanged to death for his brutal crime."
Nikki's elder cousin Jagdish Yadav, who was waiting outside the mortuary, said they were not aware of Nikki's relationship with Sahil nor had she ever told any member of her family about the man.
Asked about Nikki's last conversation with her family, Jagdish said her phone was found switched off on Friday following which her father tried to reach her friends in Delhi who informed him that her phone was with Sahil.
On Saturday, her father managed to contact Sahil who told him that he was busy with his wedding preparations and that Nikki had gone away for a trip outside Delhi. Later, we got to know from the police about her murder, he added.