More than nine years after a girl was kidnapped by a Mumbai-based couple, the minor, now 16, was reunited with her family here courtesy of an alert woman domestic help, who played an important role in the reunion, police said.
The girl – Pooja Gaud – had gone missing on January 22, 2013, following which her family, as well as the police, had launched a frantic search for her.
She was finally reunited with the family on Friday, and the man who had kidnapped her was arrested. Surprisingly, the girl’s kidnappers, with whom she stayed all the while, and her original family, lived in the vicinity, a police official said on Saturday.
“The (kidnapping) incident had occurred in 2013 when she was going to her civic-run school. She was walking with her elder brother, who was then studying in Class 4. He was walking ahead of her. But after some time, when he turned back, he did not find her,” the official said.
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After attending his classes, he went to Pooja’s classroom, where her teacher told him that she was absent. He went home and alerted her parents about her. They approached the D N Nagar police station, following which a missing person’s report was registered initially, he said.
The city police had launched a search for Pooja and posters carrying her photos in school uniform were also distributed in the area.
For assistant sub inspector Rajendra Bhosle (now retired), who was in-charge of the missing person’s bureau at D N Nagar police station, it became a mission to trace the girl. Bhosle, who is now 65-year-old, always carried the girl’s photo in his pocket, but failed to get any clue on her whereabouts, police said.
Meanwhile, 35-year-old domestic help Pramila Devendra, who worked in suburban Juhu, came across Pooja, who had started working in the same area like her since the last few months. “During their conversation, Pooja once told her that she was being harassed by her family members, who were not her original parents. She told her that she had been kidnapped. Pramila then searched on the internet whether any news report about her missing case had appeared anywhere. During the search, she came across the stories and articles about Pooja, following which she informed the D N Nagar police station about her case,” the police official said.
Police swung into action and made inquiries with Pooja and found she was the same girl who had gone missing years ago, said Milind Khurde, senior inspector of D N Nagar police station.
Thereafter, police interrogated Harry D’Souza and his wife, with whom Pooja was staying for the last nine years.
“During their questioning, it came to light that D’Souza had kidnapped Pooja as the couple did not have a child. After kidnapping, he had sent her to Karnataka for some time before bringing her back to Mumbai,” he said.
D N Nagar police then registered a first information report (FIR) against D’Souza and his wife Soni, both residents of Juhu Galli, under sections 363 (kidnapping), 365 ( intent for abduction), 368 (wrongful confinement ), 370 ( trafficking) and 374 (unlawfully compelling a person for labour) of the Indian Penal Code, he said.
D’Souza was placed under arrest late Thursday night and sent to police custody till August 10, he said.
On Friday, the girl was reunited with her family members – her mother Poonam and 19-year-old brother Rohit – who stays just a kilometre away from the D’Souza family lived, police said.
“Their reunion was a very emotional moment for us as we were able to reunite the missing girl with her family,” inspector Khurde said.