Missing girl found 9 years on; kidnapper, wife held in Mumbai

Times of India | 4 days ago | 06-08-2022 | 04:42 am

Missing girl found 9 years on; kidnapper, wife held in Mumbai

MUMBAI: Nine-and-a-half years after a seven-year-old girl went missing, Mumbai police traced and reunited her on Thursday with her mother and siblings who live in a densely populated Juhu Galli locality, Police arrested an electrician, Harry D'souza, and his wife Sony for kidnapping Pooja Gaud (now 16) on January 22, 2013. she was the 166th missing minor girl recorded in the files at DN Nagar police station. Hers was the only case unsolved till May 2015 when the officer in-charge of the missing bureau, assistant sub-inspector Rajendra Bhosale (66), retired. Pooja's father and grandparents died last year. Tip-off from locals helped cops rescue the girl kidnapped by the couple who didn't have kids then. Later when they had a child, they started to make her do household work and even work at other places. Closure for a retired sleuth: His lone unsolved 'missing minor' case crackedThe case of the seven-year-old, abducted on her way to a municipal school in Andheri, was one that haunted the officer-in-charge long after he retired from the force. For the erstwhile assistant sub-inspector, the regret was such that he would carry the minor's photo on trips to Mumbai from his village. Rajendra Bhosale (66), says, "My hope never died. I firmly believed she was alive, my efforts and prayers have yielded results. Even today, I carry the minor's picture in my pocket and whenever I visited Mumbai I went searching for her," the retired cop told TOI over the phone from Khed-Chiplun. A total of 166 missing girls were tracked between 2008 and 2015 by Bhosale and his team, of which 165 cases were solved. Seven-year-old Pooja Gaud was the lone elusive child. Bhosale says he visited thousands of houses and tapped numerous sources to locate her during his years in the force, but in vain. Four days ago, he had offered prayers at Mahim dargah and met the girl's mother before leaving for his village at Khed-Chiplun. Pooja's brother Rohit was the last person to see her before she went missing. "I remember her in the school uniform. She sat on a ledge near our school, Cama Road Municipal School, refusing to come along. Our grandfather had given Rs 10 to me and she wanted her daily share of Rs 5 for the recess. We would visit our grandparents' house at Gilbert Hill every day at 7.30 am and walk to school from there. That day, Pooja was being stubborn. As we neared the school, I promised to give her a share during the interval, but she wouldn't budge. Already 15 minutes late for school and with the gates 10 steps ahead, I asked her to join me and rushed inside. Pooja never made it to school," said Rohit. DN Nagar senior inspector Milind Kurde said the abductors, Harry D'Souza and his wife Sony, had kidnapped her some distance from the school. "D'souza took her promising to get her ice cream. They did not have children then, they decided to keep the girl and did not inform anyone. They changed her name to Annie. They used to make her do household work and even made her work as a maid at other places after they had a child three years after kidnapping her. They started assaulting her. Pooja said she started realising the D'souzas were not her parents when they started abusing her and made her slog and take away the money she earned," said Kurde. Eventually, the tip-off came from locals in the area, who suspected the couple. For Pooja's mother Poonam, who makes a living as a peanut seller, her uncle Vinod and her two brothers, who had lost all hope of ever seeing her again, the joy is unbelievable. But it is tinged with the sadness that her grandparents passed away grieving for her, and so did her father Santosh who went into depression after she went missing. Mumbai police commissioner Vivek Phansalkar praised the DN Nagar police team for its effort to reunite the girl with her family nine years after she was abducted. "This is one heart-warming story," he said.

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