‘Poonawala used to beat & then apologise to Walkar’

New Delhi: Aaftab Amin Poonawala used to beat Shraddha Walkar and then apologise, persuading her to forgive the assaults, her brother testified Thursday in a Delhi court which commenced recording the testimonies of witnesses in the sensational murder trial.

Walkar, who was in a live-in relationship with the accused, was allegedly strangled by Poonawala on May 18 last year. The accused was claimed to have dismembered her body, kept it in a fridge, and disposed the pieces of in desolate pieces across the city over several days to dodge the police and the public. Many of her body parts were discovered later in a nearby forest.

Shreejay Vikas Walkar, who was examined as a prosecution witness by the public prosecutor before Additional Sessions Judge Manisha Khurana Kakkar, testified his sister had left the house she inhabited with Poonawala in Mumbai after her family advised her against being in a relationship with him.

Shraddha turned down the advice, asserting she was already 25 years of age and “could take her own decisions”.

The two had met while working in a call centre in 2018-19, he told the court.

“She (Shraddha) said she wants to stay in a live-in relationship with Poonawala. We tried to counsel her. However, it appeared that she was under the influence of the accused and left her house and shifted to a rented accommodation in Naigaon (Mumbai),” Shreejay said.

Around two weeks after Shraddha had left the house, she informed him that Poonawala would occasionally have verbal fights and beat her up, he told the court.

“After every such incident, Poonawala would apologise to her for the fight and the physical beating and she would condone it and continue to live with him After my mother’s death, we tried to counsel her (again), but she did not agree to leave Poonawala,” Shreejay said.

He said, subsequently, the family’s contact with Shraddha tapered off as “we understood that she is completely under the influence of the accused”.

Besides Shreejay, two other important witnesses-- an auto driver and a neighbour of Shraddha’s-- were presented before the court.

According to the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the witnesses are examined by the public prosecutor in support of the prosecution’s case, and at the conclusion of the examination of the examination-in-chief, the defence counsel, representing the accused, cross-examines the witnesses.

Shreejay is the prosecution’s examination-in-chief.

The recording of the testimonies of the auto driver and the neighbour were completed on Thursday. The court has posted the matter for completion of recording the statement of Shraddha Walkar’s brother along with the cross-examination of all three witnesses on July 12. Other prosecution witnesses will be appearing before the court on July 17 and 18 for recording their statements.

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