Mishel Shaji’s father spoke about the family’s fight to know how their daughter ended up dead at a wharf in Kochi in 2017, a day after she was reported missing.

Mishel Shaji who was found dead at Kochi in 2017
news Crime Sunday, March 07, 2021 - 19:46

“If it was really a suicide, time would have healed us. But my child was killed; we are sure,” said Piravom native Shaji Varghese, as he sobbed on the other end of the phone while talking about his daughter Mishel Shaji, who died four years ago, in 2017. Saturday, March 6 this year, marked four years since then 18-year-old Mishel, a Chartered Accountant student, was found dead under mysterious circumstances near Vembanad Lake at a wharf in Kochi, Ernakulam district of Kerala.

The family of three — Mishel’s father, mother and her younger brother — strongly believes that she was murdered. Alleging major lapse in the postmortem report, the investigations carried out by local police and the ongoing probe by the Kerala Crime Branch, the family has now demanded a judicial probe into the case. For years, the family had been demanding an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), but in vain.

Mishel was residing in a hostel in Kacheripady in Ernakulam at the time of the incident in 2017. According to reports then, she had left the hostel on the evening of March 5, 2017, but never returned. She was soon reported missing. The following day, on March 6, her body was found at the Ernakulam Wharf.

The 2017 case had garnered a lot of attention, with even many from the Malayalam film industry, including actors Nivin Pauly and Tovino Thomas, demanding to bring out the truth behind Mishel’s death.

Though the family earlier moved the Kerala High Court and approached Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan demanding a CBI probe into the case, no action has been taken so far. An action council, too, has been formed to demand a fair probe in the case.

'If the police had acted on time...'

Mishel’s father Shaji still recalls the night of March 5, 2017, when the hostel authorities informed him that his daughter, who went out that evening, had not returned. “I can never forget what happened next,” Shaji told TNM.

“We went to three police stations in Kochi city with the complaint that my daughter had gone missing. But none of them took an initiative to take action or search for my daughter. My wife and I rushed to the Vanitha Police station, devastated. But they said they cannot take the case and asked us to go to Kasaba station. When we went there, the officials there told us it is not their jurisdiction and asked us to go to Central station. Desperate to find my daughter, we rushed to the central station. But to our dismay, the officials there said the Sub Inspector was not available at the time and asked us to come the next morning. None of them moved a finger to inquire about my daughter," alleged Shaji.

"If they had, she would have been alive,” he said, eventually breaking down.

The next morning, on March 6, Mishel was found dead at Ernakulam Wharf.

“If they had at least tried to trace her mobile phone, we could have tracked her,” he said.

Lapses in the postmortem report

Shaji alleged that there have been major lapses even after Mishel’s body was found, especially in the postmortem report. The report — prepared by Dr Meena KS, professor and Head of the Department of Forensic Medicine, Government College Ernakulam — said that Mishel died by drowning and that were no signs of sexual assault. It, however, mentioned that there was some blood-stained fluid in her nose and mouth.

However, Shaji alleged that many important pieces of evidence were ignored during the postmortem.

“On one of her hands, there is a mark of four fingers of a hand. We had consulted forensic expert Dr Umadathan and showed the photos of her injury marks. He had stated that this is a sign that someone clutched her hand forcefully from behind before she died. But this was not mentioned in the postmortem report,” he said.

Dr Umadathan was a forensic expert in Kerala. He passed away in November 2019. The family stated that Umadathan had told them that he would give a statement to the Crime Branch about the details. “But he soon fell sick, had difficulty in talking and succumbed to death,” said Mishel’s father.

He also added that there was an injury mark on Mishel’s lips and under the nose. “We still have the photos of these marks; anyone can come and check this, said Shaji.

“There was a planned effort to hide that this is a murder,” he alleged.

Demand for a judicial probe

Though the local police arrested a man named Cronin Alexander Baby on charges of abetment of suicide, Mishel’s family states there are more persons involved. According to the police, Cronin had sent many messages to Mishel and called her on the day she went missing. Police had also reportedly claimed that Mishel and Cronin were in a relationship. However, the family alleged that the police have still not revealed what were the messages he had sent to her. He is presently out on bail.

As part of the investigation, the police had collected various CCTV footages. One showed that Mishel had visited a church in Kaloor on March 5 before she was reported missing. According to reports, one of the visuals showed two men on a bike following her near the church. The investigation officers have still not been able to find who the men on the bike were.

Last year, the family had met Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, demanding a CBI probe. They have also moved the Kerala High Court for the same.

“Since the Crime Branch has not closed the case yet, the High Court is saying that it is a hindrance to order a CBI probe. So now, our demand is at least a probe by a judicial commission in order to find the truth,” said Thomas Nellipuram, Opposition leader of Piravom Municipality, who is also part of the action council formed for the case.

He also added that a mass signing petition demanding a judicial probe into the case started on Sunday. Inaugurating this, Piravom MLA Anoop Jacob, stated, “The Crime Branch should close the case. For the last four years, the case has been going on without any major developments. Four years is a long time for a probe, for any case. There should be an appropriate decision soon.”

Watch video: CCTV visuals showing Mishel

Read: Why Kerala cops must act on stalking complaints than ‘counsel’ stalkers

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