Jerome, Maria convicted in Neeraj Grover murder case

Mumbai: Former navy officer Emile Jerome and Kannada actress Maria Susairaj were on Thursday convicted by a local court in the case related to the killing of television executive Neeraj Grover though they were let off on murder charges.

Jerome was found guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder (with intention to cause death) under sections 304 (part I) IPC and 201 (causing disappearance of evidence).

Maria was convicted only on charges of causing disappearance of evidence as the court did not find her and Jerome guilty for the murder of Grover.

While delivering the verdict, the court observed that Jerome had acted in a spur of the moment and there was no pre-meditation to kill Grover.

According to the prosecution, Jerome had gone to Maria`s residence in suburban Malad on May 7, 2008 where he got into a fight with Grover (26) during which the naval officer stabbed the victim to death. Susairaj and Jerome later cut the body of Grover into pieces and disposed it of in Manor forest in neighbouring Thane.

Both the accused had been charged with murder, criminal conspiracy, common intent and causing disappearance of evidence.

Public prosecutor R V Kini urged the court to keep the matter tomorrow to decide on the sentence to be awarded to the accused.

However, Maria`s lawyer Sharif Shaikh said that Maria was found guilty under section 201 IPC for which maximum punishment was three years imprisonment and that she had already undergone the term during the trial. Hence she should be given bail today.

The court then said it would hear both the sides tomorrow on the sentence to be given to the accused.

Outside the court, Grover`s parents said they were not happy with the judgement. His mother Neelam told reporters that Maria was the main culprit, who had called Jerome to her home leading to Grover`s killing. Neelam said Maria should not have been absolved of murder charges.

Grover`s father Amarnath said he was unhappy and that the judgement was disappointing for them.

Maria`s lawyer Sharif Shaikh said Maria was a victim of the circumstances and the court had absolved her of murder charges.

She came to Mumbai on May 1, 2008, few days before Grover`s murder and in such a short span of time she could not have sought favours from him for a role in TV serial as had been alleged by the prosecution, Shaikh told reporters.

According to prosecution, Maria had arrived in Mumbai from Bangalore to try her luck in the entertainment industry and came into contact with Grover, who was at that time working with a production house and had promised to give her a break.

Prosecutor R V Kini examined 48 witnesses including friends of the victim and accused, watchman of the building who had seen Jerome, and the person who sold knife to them.

The prosecution also examined the man who had painted the house after the murder to wipe off blood stains, besides the owner of the Santro Car used to dispose of Grover`s body.

Maria`s lawyer Sherif Sheikh argued that she was not in the apartment when Grover was murdered and that she had met the deceased only three days before his death.

Denying that she had any physical relationship with Grover, her counsel even claimed that the starlet was still a `virgin` and police should have ascertained that by medically examining her.

Maria told the court that the police had detained her brother and sister to force her to make a confession.

Jerome`s advocate Wahab Khan argued that prosecution had failed to prove that Grover was still alive when the navy officer arrived at Maria`s residence.

Khan argued that the onus was on the prosecution to show what had transpired between 11.30 pm on May 6 and 7:30 am on May 7, 2008, the day of the murder.

Jerome told the court that he was not aware where Grover worked and whether he had promised Maria a role in television. The naval officer also told the court that he had come to Mumbai from Kochi on May 7 as Maria was in depression.

The trial, which was held on a daily basis, concluded last week and the dictation of the judgement began on Monday.

The defence also examined top cop Rakesh Maria as a witness to show that evidence had been planted.

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