Indian mogul to stand trial for murder

In a twist in court yesterday, Indrani Mukerjea revealed her intention to file for divorce from Peter Mukerjea, former CEO of Star India TV network.
In a twist in court yesterday, Indrani Mukerjea revealed her intention to file for divorce from Peter Mukerjea, former CEO of Star India TV network.PHOTO: PETER AND INDRANI/ FACEBOOK

Ex-TV network chief, his wife and her former husband accused of killing his stepdaughter

Former Star India television network chief executive Peter Mukerjea will stand trial for the murder of his 25-year-old stepdaughter Sheena Bora in a sensational case that has continued to grab the headlines in India.

Peter Mukerjea, his wife Indrani and her former husband Sanjeev Khanna were charged with murder, kidnapping and criminal conspiracy yesterday by a Mumbai court, which set Feb 1 as the start date for the trial.

All three pleaded not guilty in court yesterday, with Indian television media showing shots of the 44- year-old Indrani, a once glamorous television executive active in the Mumbai social scene, being taken to court in plain clothes and with grey-streaked hair tied in a bun.

In a twist, she revealed her intention to file for divorce in court yesterday.

The murder of Ms Bora, whose mother Indrani had passed her off as her sister for years, has grabbed the headlines in India as it involves a well-known society couple, murder intrigue and an alleged cover-up.

Mukerjea, 63, was for a decade the head of Mr Rupert Murdoch's Star India television network, while Indrani was chief executive of INX Media, a television company she co-founded with her husband.

The saga started when Ms Bora disappeared in 2012 without telling her boyfriend, friends, colleagues and family members. At the time, she was in a relationship with Mr Rahul Mukerjea, Peter Mukerjea's son from an earlier marriage, a relationship that was reportedly opposed by both Indrani and Mukerjea.

Investigators accused Indrani of strangling Ms Bora on April 24, 2012, and, with the help of her former husband Sanjeev Khanna and driver Shyamvar Rai, dumping the remains of the body in a forest area some 100km from Mumbai. The body was discovered in 2012 by local villagers but was identified only three years later.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has alleged that Mukerjea, who was out of the country then, was aware of the murder.

Investigators alleged that the Mukerjeas went on to cover up Ms Bora's disappearance after the murder.

Indrani, according to investigators, used Ms Bora's mobile phones to send messages to people  to say that she was in the United States. The recipients included Ms Bora's boyfriend Rahul, who had started by then to ask the police to investigate her disappearance.

The Indian media has covered every twist in the story, with TV channels even getting hold of recordings of phone conversations between Mr Rahul Mukerjea and Peter Mukerjea and Indrani over Ms Bora's disappearance, which were handed over to the CBI.

According to Indian media reports, the murder came to light after the driver gave details of it to the police.

Mukerjea's lawyer Mihir Gheewala told The Straits Times that it was now up to the court. "The court will decide if there was a conspiracy or not. Truth has taken a back seat - that is our argument."

Additionally, Indrani and Sanjeev Khanna were charged with plotting to kill her son and Ms Bora's brother, Mikhail. Mr Mikhail Bora had earlier alleged that Indrani had spiked his drink on the same day that Ms Bora was killed.

Yesterday, Mr Bora said the family wanted justice for his sister. "We hope that we will get justice very soon. We are hoping for the best. I am hoping the law and court will deliver justice to my sister and me," he told reporters.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2017, with the headline 'Indian mogul to stand trial for murder'. Print Edition | Subscribe