Law & Justice

Woman, her live-in partner arrested for Vasant Vihar triple murder

Delhi Police on Wednesday claimed to have solved a triple murder in Vasant Vihar with the arrest of a 42-year-old woman and her 39-year-old live-in partner for the murder of an elderly couple and their young nursing attendant. The arrested woman’s mother had been a friend of the 75-year-old woman for nearly 50 years, the police said.

The arrested couple — Preeti Sehrawat and Manoj Bhatt — murdered Vishnu Mathur (79) and his wife Shashi Mathur (75) because they suffered losses in business ventures and urgently needed money. They used to run a restaurant and a paying guest accommodation, the police said. Bhatt had once been arrested on suspicion of murdering his wife, they said.

The two allegedly hatched a plan 10 days ago to kill the couple and their 20-year-old nursing attendant and rob their flat in Vasant Apartments in south Delhi’s Vasant Vihar, a police investigator who did not wish to be identified said.

The Mathurs and their attendant, Khushbu Nautiyal, were found dead in the first floor flat on Sunday morning. Since there were no signs of forced entry, the police suspected the involvement of somebody known either to the couple or the attendant or both.

Bhatt had asked Sehrawat to find a house they could rob. Sehrawat, whose mother worked with Shashi Mathur in the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), identified the couple as an “easy target”, the investigator cited above said.

The two were allegedly captured by a CCTV camera entering the building — their faces covered with a helmet and cloth around 11.30pm on Saturday. They left the house at 2.30am on Sunday with their clothes changed but their faces still covered. “We have recovered stolen ₹86,000 cash, a diamond ring, a gold chain, and gold-colored bangles. The two have confessed to their crime,” said Satish Golcha, special commissioner of police (crime branch and economic offenses wing).

Sehrawat became a suspect in the case when the murdered couple’s daughter told investigators about the former’s sudden visit to her parents’ flat after a gap of nearly four years on the night of June 17. Sehrawat told police during questioning that she visited the house on June 17 to conduct a recce of the flat, the neighborhood, positioning of the CCTV cameras and identify possible escape routes.

“We found that Sherawat’s phone was switched off on the night of the murder. She was in a live-in relationship with a man, who served five years in jail in suspicion for his wife’s murder in 2010,” said another police officer associated with the case.

On the night of the murder, Sehrawat and Bhatt reached Vasant Apartments around 11.30pm on a motorcycle and parked it at a spot that was not covered by any CCTV camera, investigators said.

“Sehrawat rang the doorbell and Nautiyal opened the door. Shashi said she was going to sleep as she had taken her medication for the night. She asked Nautiyal to serve tea to Sehrawat,” said the officer cited above.

Sehrawat then told Nautiyal that her friend (Bhatt) was waiting outside and convinced her to let him in. She asked Nautiyal to switch on the TV and turn up the volume. As Nautiyal was watching TV, Bhatt allegedly gagged her from behind and stabbed her in the neck 36 times with a kitchen knife. The two then went to the couple’s bedroom, gagged and stabbed them in their sleep, another officer involved in the investigation said.

“The two removed Vishnu’s gold chain and diamond ring. Using the almirah’s key that they found in a cord around his neck, they stole Shashi’s bangles and ₹98,000,” said the second official cited above.

Police said the two then drank alcohol they had brought, smoked cigarettes and deliberately left behind the cigarette packet and butts in the room to dress up the crime scene. They then changed their blood-soaked clothes and left the building with their faces covered, the officer said.

Sehrawat and Bhatt were arrested on Wednesday morning from a hotel in Gurugram. The two had been living in hotels since the murders, the police said.

Police said the couple knew each other for the past three years and had been living together in Gurugram. Bhatt was arrested in 2010 for allegedly killing his wife at their Lajpat Nagar home. He was acquitted of the murder in 2015 for lack of evidence, the officer said.

Sehrawat, who had a diploma in hotel management, had previously been married twice and had separated both times, the police said.