On Friday (August 5), a 16-year-old teenager named Pooja Gaud was finally reunited with her family after a span of 9 years. She was abducted by a couple in 2013 when she was just 7. As per reports, one Harry D’Souza and his wife Soni D’Souza kidnapped the girl from a slum in the Juhu Galli area in the Andheri suburb of Mumbai. The police nabbed Harry on Thursday (August 4) night.
Pooja was on her way to school on January 22, 2013, when she was lured by Harry under the pretext of offering chocolates and ice creams. Although she had left the house with her brother Rohit, she lagged behind which gave the accused the perfect opportunity to abduct the 7-year-old.
She was first taken to Haji Malang in Kalyan and intimidated into silence. According to Pooja, Harry and his wife then took her to Goa, followed by Virar, and Raichur in Karnataka. The victim returned to Mumbai along with her abductors only in 2015.
Today After 9 years this girl found and the kidnapper is arrested at DN Nagar Police Staion,Andheri West,Mumbai— prasad vare (@PrasadVare) August 5, 2022
“They used to give me proper food and take care of me, but once Soni had her own baby, she started harassing me and would beat me. They kept me home and did not allow me to go out. It was like I was in prison. Harry used to speak in English and he taught me how to write in English at home,” Pooja recalled.
The case had haunted former Assistant Sub-Inspector Rajendra Bhosale for years. Between 2010 and 2015, he was heading the bureau of missing persons at DN Nagar police station. Although his team was able to trace all the missing children, they could not find Pooja.
“I still carry her photo in my wallet. Even after my retirement, I thought about the girl every day and prayed that she is found,” Bhosale added.
How was the cold case of Pooja Gaud solved?
The breakthrough in the case came in the form of a 35-year-old tech-savvy maid named Pramila Devendra. She and the abducted girl, Pooja Gaud, worked as house helps at the residence of a businessman.
During one of their conversations, Pooja informed Pramila about the harassment meted out to her by her family. She also revealed how Harry D’Souza and his wife Soni D’Souza took her away from her real parents during childhood.
While speaking about the matter, Pramila told Hindustan Times, “Annie (aka Pooja) used to come to work with teary eyes and would tell me said that her mother beat her. When she told me that her mother is not her real mother and that she had gone missing when she was a small child, I understood that her case was not normal.”
On searching about Pooja’s case on Google, the enterprising house help stumbled upon a poster of the girl and several phone numbers. Pramila was able to connect to a number, which belonged to Pooja’s neighbour Mohammad Rafique Shaikh.
A hesitant Shaikh asked Pramila to give him a video call. Pooja was instantly identified by her family, including her mother. The family wasted no time in notifying the DN Nagar police station.
A police official, privy to the case, informed, “Our team went to the place where Pooja and Pramila worked, and reunited the minor girl with her family (on August 5, 2022).” For Assistant Sub-Inspector Rajendra Bhosale, it marks the end of a 9-year-long wait. “I am elated and I can now rest without any more tension,” he told Hindustan Times.
The Unsolved Case of Vishwa Patel of Ahmedabad
Vishwa Patel was 11 years old when she went missing in 2012. On the fateful day of January 27 that year, the 7th std girl had attended a wedding at around 1:30 pm. The event was organised in her society in Anand Nagar in Ahmedabad. She then disappeared without leaving any trace behind.
The case created such a hullabaloo that the local police, crime branch and State agencies got involved in tracing the missing girl. The law enforcement authorities launched a nationawide manhunt, and followed up on over 3400 informer calls.
The Crime Branch had even sent her pictures to 125 railway stations and updated her pictures to make up for the change in facial features with time. “We circulated her pictures across the country, but nothing worked out,” a cop conceded.
The police had an initial lead in the form of 2 CCTV footage, where the minor girl was allegedly seen walking out of the wedding. Later, it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity, thereby leaving the cops with no new evidence.
After 10 years of investigation, the case was finally closed in February this year as no trace of the girl was found. Top cop Himanshu Shukla, who served in the Ahmedabad crime branch between 2010 and 2015, refers to the unsolved case of Vishwa Patel as his biggest regret.
Shukla, who holds the distinction of solving many high-profile cases, told The Times of India, “I could not trace an 11-year-old girl named Vishwa Patel who went missing in 2012.” While Bhonsale can now heave a sigh of relief, the journey is long for the likes of Himanshu Shukla.