NEW DELHI: Crime branch sleuths are surprised over the methodical manner in which Sumit Handa went about planning his wife's murder. They say he wanted to execute a " perfect murder" and had used the internet extensively to do research.

DCP (crime) Ashok Chand said their suspicion was aroused when they learnt that he had asked his younger sister, who had come from Agra to help the couple settle in Delhi, to return home with their child, citing work pressure, barely seven days before he allegedly committed the murder.

"After he had killed Niranjani, he not only cleaned up the place but also asked a labourer to replace the tiles of the bathroom, fearing that forensic evidence could be collected from the floor,'' said additional DCP (crime) Sanjay Bhatia. He is alleged to have burnt his wife's air tickets and passport to wipe out all evidence. His act was so convincing that Niranjani's parents did not find anything amiss when he told them that their daughter had fled with another man.

The cops are still looking at his route from Rai to Delhi, trying to establish if he had any accomplice. Sumit hitched a ride from a truck and came to the Delhi border. Here, he took an autorickshaw to go to ISBT, Kashmere Gate, from where he took a bus to ISBT, Anand Vihar. Finally, from Anand Vihar, he took a bus to Pul Prahlad Pur and reached his residence around 6 am in the morning.

"To make his complaint that his wife had left him above suspicion, he continued sending emails to her, pleading with her to come back. He even kept his gmail account open at his office so that his friends and colleagues could see what he was doing. The cops said he also searched police website ZIPNET and the Haryana police website to see if the burnt remains of the body had been discovered. His laptop showed he searched "burnt dead bodies" several times to ascertain whether any burnt dead body had recently been recovered in Haryana. He had procured the trolley bag from South Africa because of its big capacity, claimed police sources.

The cops though are wondering why Sumit performed his wife's last rites. "We are questioning him on this. This movement at the ghats ultimately helped the cops to collect more evidence against him.

Sumit has, however, claimed he is innocent. "My wife had slashed her wrist herself and committed suicide. I have nothing to do with her murder,'' he claimed before TOI. However, he chose to remain silent when asked how his wife's body was completely burnt.

The cops claim they have enough forensic evidence to get him convicted. "Burnt bones, ashes, hair, residue of wire and a burnt pen drive were recovered from the Haryana jungles. The flat where she was killed has also been inspected minutely. A Rohini FSL team and crime team from Delhi have visited the scenes of crime. We will be carrying out DNA tests and matching our results with the DNA of her parents to establish the identity of the victim. We have technical evidence which shows his presence at Haryana on October 30. In fact, it was this issue on which we cornered him,'' said an officer from the special unit which cracked the case.

Sumit suspected wife of infidelity

Sumit Handa was a science student who held a diploma in French, few of his acquaintances could have imagined him to be capable of such brutality.

He told the cops that he suspected his wife, Niranjani, 27, of having an affair with an NRI in South Africa though they had a love marriage. Niranjani Pillai was the daughter of a Durban-based businessman, dealing in garments, Rama Pillai. Niranjani held a South African passport.

Ashok Chand, DCP (crime), told TOI that the couple had been advised by their parents to go to India and settle their differences. "It was towards the end of August that Sumit and Niranjani came to Agra where they put up at Sumit's ancestral residence with their one-year-old child. ``Handa managed to get a job with the travel agency in Mansarovar Garden, west Delhi, and used his old contacts to find his wife an apprentice's position at another travel agency in Malviya Nagar of south Delhi. It was in the first week of October that the couple shifted to a rented accommodation at Vishwakarma Colony in Pul Prahladpur near Okhla,'' said Chand.

The differences kept on simmering and seemed to have reached a boiling point on the evening of October 29. There was an altercation between Sumit and his wife. ``It seemed that Sumit was preparing for the crime well in advance and the argument just gave him an opportunity," said Sanjay Bhatia, additional DCP (crime). Sumit is alleged to have picked up a kitchen knife and stabbed Niranjani repeatedly. He then strangulated her with the charging lead of his laptop. The body was kept in the bathroom the entire night.

He then procured a trolley bag and hacked the body and put it inside the bag. In another bag that was strung from his shoulder, he put all the blood-stained clothes of Niranjani and other incriminating items like the knife and even her passport, said Bhatia.

About 12 hours later, on October 30, Sumit called a friend and asked him to come to his house in his Maruti 800. He told him he had to go to Rai in Haryana to meet his cousin to deliver some "goods'' and that his bike was not suitable for the job. This colleague dropped Sumit near a petrol pump on the roadside, just a few metres from a jungle. Sumit purchased two litres of petrol from the petrol pump and carried both the bags 200 metres into the jungle.

Minutes later, according to the cops, he dumped the bags on top of each other and poured petrol on them before setting them on fire. He waited for more than two hours for the body to burn completely before he left the place. He collected some ashes in a polythene bag which he later disposed of in the Yamuna.

Sumit took lifts from passing vehicles and reached New Delhi the next morning. On November 2, he coolly walked into the Pul Prahaladpur police station, lodged a missing complaint stating his wife had "fled with another man after drugging him and stealing precious jewellery from the house". He then left for Agra and told his parents and in-laws that his wife had run away. No one suspected any foul play. It took the crime branch over seven days and intense physical and technical monitoring to nail him and arrest him on Friday.

It was a tip-off from the US from a friend of Niranjani that put Sumit in the dock. The cops began telephonic surveillance and were surprised when Sumit told them he had never been to Rai though the probe team had enough evidence of his presence there on October 30. "We probed further and the links emerged. Subsequently, Sumit was taken to Rai in Haryana, where he identified the place where he had burnt the body of his wife and other incriminating material,'' said Bhatia.

Sumit told cops that he studied till Class 12 at Army School in Agra and then did BSc from Agra College. In 2000, he came to Delhi and did a six-month internship at a travel agency at World Trade Centre. In 2001, he joined another travel agency at Karol Bagh. He also pursued a two-year course in French from Alliance Francaise. In 2003, he went to Thailand as marketing manager for a carpet firm but came back in seven months, and in 2003 landed a job with Sita World Travels.

During his stint in the travel company, he met Rama Pillai. In May, 2005, he went to South Africa at his instance. It was while working at Pillai's shop as chief sales executive that he met his daughter. The two fell in love and had a court marriage on February 5, 2007. In August, he left the service of his father-in-law and joined Serendipity Tours in Durban.

Two years later, in November 2009, they came to India and celebrated their marriage anniversary in Agra. However, unable to find a good job, they returned to Durban in December. In October 2010, the couple had a child even as relations between them got increasingly strained.

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