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Two held in Lonavala double murder case

Pune: Police have arrested two persons over the last two days in connection with the murder of the two engineering students in a forested area in Lonavala on April 2, a senior officer said today, adding that robbery was the motive behind the crime.

Bodies of Sarthak Wakchoure and Shruti Dumbre (both in their early 20s), both last year students of Sinhgad Engineering College in Lonavla, were found in the forest near the picturesque hill station on April 3. The victims were found to have been hit on the back of their heads with a blunt object and their hands tied at the back.

Both the accused, identified as Asif Shaikh and Salim Shaikh, have a criminal past and their modus operandi was to rob couples sitting in isolated places, according to sources.

A senior police officer today told reporters that Asif, who is the main accused, was arrested from Ahmed Nagar in Maharashtra, while Salim was picked from Agra in Uttar Pradesh.

He said Asif runs a stall selling snacks in Ahmednagar.

“We have arrested two accused, who are criminals on record, and they have confessed to have killed the two engineering students on April 2. The motive behind the murder was robbery,” said Vishwas Nangre-Patil, Inspector General (Kolhapur Range).

He said there are two witnesses in the case.

The IG said though police suspected Asif’s role in the crime since beginning of investigation, he was misleading the police.

“However, our teams kept him under surveillance before arresting him finally,” he said, adding that human intelligence played a crucial role in cracking the case.

Pune district police had formed multiple probe teams earlier, but could not crack the case. An award of Rs 50,000 was also announced for any information on the murder after they failed to make any headway in the case.

Explaining the sequence of events on April 2, the officer said Asif and Salim, as per their modus operandi, objected to the presence of Wakchoure and Dumbre in an isolated place.

However, Wakchoure told them that they would leave soon.

The accused duo left the place only to return in the next five minutes and forced Wakchoure and Dumbre to nearby vegetation.

“The accused, who were carrying a sharp weapon, first forced the man to remove his cloths and later went after the woman. However, Wakchoure retaliated and a fight ensued. He was killed in the violent scuffle,” Nangre-Patil said.

He said the accused decided to get rid of the woman as she raised an alarm.

“They tied her hands with the help of the man’s cloths and bludgeoned her to death with a stone. After the incident, the accused walked away with two mobile phones of the victims and Rs 1,000 cash. Police have recovered the phones from the accused,” the IG said.

While Wakchoure hailed from Rahuri in Ahmednagar district, Dumbre was a native of Otur in Pune.

The officer said the accused are petty criminals and cases of robbery and theft were registered against them.

“One of them was even convicted for robbery and was in jail for four months in 2016,” he said.

In a bid to crack the case, the police personnel sometimes disguised themselves as couples and ventured into forested areas.

Asif and Salim were produced before a court today and remanded to police custody till June 16.

—PTI