On a morning in May 2008, as I was sipping my morning tea with the day’s fresh news, an image of a man looked at me from between the pages. It didn’t take much to realise that this man was quite good-looking and in the prime of his youth, and his smile, that was just about to begin at the moment the picture had been clicked, was quite captivating, the smile of a young man who was happy with his life. It was then that I realised what the news was all about – about how a woman aspiring to be an actress had brutally murdered this young man, since he did not give her a break in the hindi TV industry.
On May 21, 2008, 27-year-old Maria Susairaj, a struggling wannabe Kannada actrees, along with her 25-year-old boyfriend Emily Jerome Matthew, made breaking news for 25-year-old Neeraj Grover’s brutal murder and subsequent attempt at destroying the evidence by burning the many pieces of his body. The starlet who was desperately trying to get a break in TV serials, and her boyfriend who was a bright Indian Navy officer, put an end to a young life, bringing an end to their own futures. Even as the nation was trying to believe this shocking news of how a couple could butcher a live young man for reasons so flimsy, police made the arrests and confessions and blames soon followed.
Investigations began after Neeraj Grover’s father approached the Malad police to file a missing complaint on May 07 2008. According to the police, Maria Susairaj had come to Mumbai in October 2007 and did an acting course (which she is now putting to good use in her press conferences). She then went to Bangalore, acted in 04 Kannada films, then came back to Mumbai to look for a big break. It was then that she met Neeraj Grover, who had, a few weeks ago joined as a top executive at Synergy Adlabs and was earlier working as creative head at Balaji Telefilms.
As police arrested Maria with ample evidence, she led them to an isolated spot on the outskirts of the city, a fortnight after Neeraj’s father had filed the missing complaint. The police recovered what remained of Neeraj Grover’s body – his body had been chopped into several small pieces with a kitchen knife and stashed in three duffel bags that were later burnt by the couple to destroy evidence. The police claim the couple had sex after Neeraj was killed, but this statement was later turned by Maria to ‘Emily raped me’. How convenient! And thus began her game of shifting the entire blame on her then boyfriend (I am assuming they are no longer a couple after what happened…but who knows..maybe Ram Gopal Verma will know)
According to the police, Maria started getting intimate with Neeraj to gain a role in one of his serials, and Neeraj had told his friends that he was in love with Maria. On being interrogated, Maria told the police that it was a ‘one-sided affair’.
Maria and Jerome had known each other from their schooldays and their friends say that it was hard for them to believe that Jerome, who was felicitated by former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam a year before the murder, and Maria, who had a bright future in acting and dancing, could be involved in such a heinous act. The introvert Jerome was the school captain and brilliant in academics, he had even won a gold medal for topping his Navy course.
Maria is the daughter of influential parents, her father is a builder in Mysore, and Jerome is the son of a retired bank clerk.
On the night of May 06 2008, Neeraj came to Dheeraj Solitaire Building in Malad (West) where Maria was shifting into a one-bedroom flat and Neeraj was supposed to help her with the shifting. As they were chatting, Maria’s boyfriend Jerome called her mobile, and overheard a voice (that of Neeraj) asking her “Is that your boyfriend?”
According to police, Jerome knew about Neeraj, but Maria had told Jerome that it was one-sided and only Neeraj had a soft corner for her. It was proven in examinations that Neeraj and Maria had sex before the murder and Jerome and Maria had sex after the murder……!
Jerome was angry at Neeraj’s presence at Maria’s place and asked her to make him leave. But she disconnected and after repeated attempts when he was unable to reach her, he called Neeraj and asked him to leave. Neeraj stayed at Maria’s flat till 04am. 03 hours later the bell rang and Maria opened the door to let in Jerome, who had taken a 03:45am Air India flight to Mumbai. When Jerome found Neeraj in her bedroom, he woke him up and the two fought bitterly before Jerome got a knife from the kitchen and stabbed him in the chest, attacking him constantly till he was dead. Neeraj's last words before his last breath were a heart-rending 'Maria! Maria!' This to was confessed by Maria herself.
After this Jerome and Maria had sex. The two then decided on what would be the best way to dispose of the body - to chop him up, disposing his body parts in three duffel bags and then burning up the pieces.
Around noon, Maria went to HyperCity and bought two large bags, a large bread-knife, air fresheners and new drapes to replace the bloodstained ones at home. They had decided that she would pay cash, but when she fell short of Rs. 800 on a purchase of Rs. 2000, she used her debit card. According to her, Jerome dragged the body to the bathroom, where he chopped it into several pieces and handed it to Maria, who then put each piece in the bags. This took more than three hours and they also put the blood-soaked clothes in the bag. Maria then called a choreographer friend and borrowed his Hyundai Santro. The couple then went to the friend’s flat in an auto and returned in the car after picking petrol in a jerry-can. They brought the bags down from their home in the lift and loaded them in the car, while Maria introduced Jerome to the building watchman as her friend.
Maria confessed to the police after the arrest that while training at INS Shivaji at Lonavla, Jerome had made several trips from Mumbai to Daman and Diu and was aware of many isolated forest areas on the way. They drove for about three hours before finding an isolated spot near Manor, Thane. They then dumped the bags there and doused it with petrol.
In the evening Neeraj’s friends came to Maria’s house looking for him, but she told them he had left. She gave them his mobile phone, saying he had forgotten it. Later, she accompanied the friends to the Malad police station to report him missing. The next day she got her entire flat repainted. When the couple was called to the Malad police station the next day, he told them he was in the city for a training course, but unknown to him, the Naval authorities in Kochi had already declared him missing.
On 12th May, Maria and four friends went to the office of the police commissioner and asked for help in tracking Neeraj. After they introduced themselves, the commissioner told Maria that she had nearly helped end the search as the prime suspect was sitting in front of him. It was then that Maria broke down, and after the initial hesitation, confessed to everything.
And like I always believe in and say:
"Heal the world we live in
Save it for our children" - MJ
Debolina Raja Gupta