Pooja’s was the only case unsolved till May 2015 when the officer in-charge of the missing bureau, assistant sub-inspector Rajendra Bhosale, retired from the force.
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. Police arrested an electrician, Harry D'souza, and his wife Sony for kidnapping Pooja Gaud (now 16) on January 22, 2013.
Pooja 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, retired from the force.
For Bhosale, the regret was such that he would carry the minor's photo on trips to Mumbai from his village. Bhosale, 66, says, "My hope never died. I firmly believed she was alive. Whenever I visited Mumbai I went searching for her." A total of 166 missing girls were tracked between 2008 and 2015 by Bhosale and his team, of which 165 cases were solved.
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 sitting on a ledge near our school in Andheri, refusing to come along. Our grandfather had given Rs 10 to me and she wanted her daily share of Rs 5 for the recess. I promised to give her 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 lured her with the promise of an ice cream. "D'souza and his wife did not have children then and they decided to keep the girl and changed her name to Annie. Three years later, they had a child. After that they would make the abducted girl do household work and even made her work as a maid at other places. They also started assaulting her. Pooja said she started realising the D'souzas were not her parents when they started abusing her and would take away the money she earned," said Kurde. Eventually, the tip-off came from locals in the area.
For Pooja's mother Poonam, who makes a living as a peanut seller, her uncle Vinod and her two brothers, who had lost hope of ever seeing her again, the joy is unbelievable.
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