Where is fringe Bollywood actress Laila Khan? The mystery continues after her stepfather and suspected militant Parvez Iqbal Tak told the Jammu and Kashmir Police that she and four of her family members were killed but her father Nadir Shah Patel challenged the contention in Mumbai Thursday.
Tak, a suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba extremist nabbed in Jammu and Kashmir June 21, made the revelation in police custody that Laila Khan - missing since February 2011 - had been killed along with four other members of her family and their bodies had been disposed of somewhere near Mumbai.
Laila's father Patel questioned Tak's contention and accused him of attempting to defraud him in a realty matter in Mumbai.
Speaking to a private news channel in Mumbai, Patel said he did not "believe" Tak's claim that Laila, her mother Saleena Begum, siblings Zara, Imran, cousin Reshma and a domestic help were killed and their bodies disposed of somewhere around Mumbai in February 2011.
Giving vital leads in a case that has long confounded investigators, Tak told the Jammu and Kashmir Police that five-six people were involved in the killing of Laila and her family.
They were shot dead and buried in an isolated place near Mumbai, Tak is believed to have told interrogators in Jammu and Kashmir.
"Initially after his arrest, Tak was trying to mislead police. But later, when the Mumbai police too joined the investigations, Tak told us that five to six characters were involved in wiping out Laila Khan and four members of her family," Jammu and Kashmir's Deputy Inspector General of Police Gareeb Das told IANS in Jammu.
Tak married Laila's mother Saleema Begum after she divorced Patel.
Even as Mumbai police is expected to take Tak's custody from Kishtwar, a separate kidnapping case was lodged against the accused in Mumbai's Oshiwara Police Station two days ago.
Das added that Tak, who said that sharpshooters had been hired to kill Laila and her family, was cooperating with interrogators and gradually revealing information on the case.
He said Tak claimed that he did not know the name of the place where the victims were taken but he could identify the spot.
The five were taken to the area on the pretext of flying to Dubai as they faced a threat to their lives due to the large property they owned, Tak is believed to have told Jammu and Kashmir Police.
The killers gunned them down and buried the bodies before escaping, Tak said.
According to Das, the crime would have remained a mystery had they not seized Laila's Maharashtra-registered vehicle that Tak brought to Kishtwar. It was found outside his rented shop in the town May 28.
Das said the story would unfold once the Maharashtra Police take Tak to Mumbai and the crime spot.
"All would depend on whether police recover the bodies of the victims," Das said.
Questioning Tak's claims, Patel said that if Tak's claim was true, then the Mumbai police should register a first information report and investigate the matter.
However, the Mumbai police have denied any knowledge on the alleged murders, though a team of the city police was likely to leave for Jammu soon. Last month, a team had gone to Jammu for probing the matter which had strong Mumbai and Maharashtra connections.
Patel said that Tak and his partner Asif Sheikh used to come regularly to their Santacruz home.
"I always used to caution my family members to beware of them, I found their behaviour suspicious, but they did not heed to me," Patel said.
He admitted that the Tak-Sheikh duo was planning to dupe him in some property matters as Tak was found with a fake PAN card bearing his name (Patel's) name.
Referring to a mysterious fire a few months ago which partly damaged their bungalow in Igatpuri, a hill-station in Maharashtra's Nashik district, around 130 km from Mumbai, Patel contended that there could a link between Laila and her family's disappearance and the fire, but declined to elaborate.
Laila, whose original name is Reshma Patel, was last seen in a 2008 movie Wafaa with Rajesh Khanna.
According to sources, the Mumbai police had found Laila to have questionable links which allegedly led to her disappearance from Mumbai in February 2011.
After tracking her mobile phone, her last call records showed her to be at her farm house in Igatpuri, a hill-station in Maharashtra's Nashik district, around 130 km from Mumbai.