In a baffling case that left investigators puzzled for half a decade, Telangana's women's safety wing and anti-human trafficking unit have finally cracked the enigmatic disappearance of a woman who managed to erase her digital footprint and start a new life under a completely different identity.
This gripping tale began in June 2018 when a 36-year-old married woman from an affluent family mysteriously vanished from the heart of Hyderabad, specifically from the bustling Humayunnagar neighbourhood.
Details Of The Case
The woman, whose identity remains undisclosed, meticulously removed all traces of her digital and personal existence, even altering her religious affiliation.
She embarked on a new life, marrying another man, and underwent a significant transformation in her physical appearance. Her new journey led her to work with an NGO in the distant state of Maharashtra.
The disappearance sent shockwaves through her family, who initially suspected a domestic dispute as the cause.
Her father filed a habeas corpus petition in the Telangana High Court, igniting an investigation into her whereabouts.
The Elusive Trail
For years, investigators were stymied, but they eventually got their first breakthrough when they discovered that she had updated her Aadhaar card, the Indian biometric identity system.
This update provided a crucial lead, and the police tracked her to the serene state of Goa.
In their pursuit, they employed facial recognition and digital investigative techniques, a testament to the power of technology in modern law enforcement.
Additional director general of police, Women Safety Wing, Shikha Goel, commented on the case to Times of India, saying, "While we have traced several missing persons using digital technology, this case stands out. Initially, we suspected family disputes, but it turned out to be a case of erasing one's digital and personal identity to start afresh."
A Series of Disappearances
The woman's disappearance in 2018 was not her first vanishing act.
She had gone missing twice before, in 2014 and 2015, during disputes with her husband. However, on those occasions, she had returned home.
In 2018, her father's dowry harassment complaint led to the registration of a case, which set the stage for the ongoing investigation.
The investigation initially centred on analysing CCTV footage, which revealed that she had voluntarily left her home. Yet, the trial went cold until 2019 when her father filed a writ petition in the high court, directing the police to seek assistance from the women's safety wing and anti-human trafficking unit.
Sub-inspector of the women's safety wing, P Harish, shared that crucial leads emerged from her friends who disclosed her use of another mobile phone to book a cab.
Her voice recordings with the cab company and her initial trip to Pune provided essential clues.
Unfortunately, the investigation faced setbacks when she sold her phone, and the onset of the pandemic further complicated the probe.
The breakthrough finally arrived when investigators discovered that her Aadhaar card had been updated just last month.
This update included a change from Telugu to Marathi and alterations to her religion and husband's name.
These changes led to the discovery of her bank account details, which, in turn, triggered a digital investigation that unveiled her new identity on social media.
A police officer involved in the case stated, "Using Aadhaar update details, we found her bank account information. Through digital investigative tools, we traced her social media accounts under her new name. Her Instagram posts indicated she was in Goa, involved in social work. We have established her identity, using facial recognition technology."
Ultimately, the woman was apprehended in Goa and presented before the court.
During her court appearance, she expressed her desire for independence, a request that the court granted.
The shocking twist in the story came when her new husband only discovered her true identity upon her apprehension.
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