Days after charred skull found, Kannada actress held for murder

A murder mystery that began with discovery of a charred skull in a remote forest area outside Hubli city in north Karnataka by a farmer on April 10, and the subsequent finding of charred limbs in another part of the city, has now ended with the arrest of a young model-turned-actress and her friend.

The murder mystery was cracked by Hubli-Dharwad police after DNA analysis of the body parts found in separate regions, study of CCTV footage on roads leading to the forest area, and analysis of cellphone tower information for the regions where the body parts were found, according to the police.

Investigation has found that the victim was Rakesh Katwe, 32, stepbrother of the accused actress Shanaya Katwe. The police have identified his alleged killers as Shanaya’s friend Niyaz Ahmed Katigar, 21, and the latter’s associates – Tausif Abdul Rehman, 21; Altaf Tajuddin, 24; and Aman Giraniwale, 19.

The police said they zeroed in on the suspects after investigations showed that a Maruti Ritz car registered in Shayana’s name and a Hyundai Accent car registered in Aman’s name were allegedly used to dispose of the body after Katwe’s death in Hubli. The arrest of Niyaz Ahmed and his associates and their interrogation revealed that Katwe was killed after he reportedly objected to a relationship between Shanaya and Niyaz, Dharwad Superintendent of Police P Krishnakant said after the arrests.

Shanaya, who entered the Kannada film world in 2018 after a modelling career, had recently completed a second film. The police said her family had adopted Rakesh Katwe as a child.

A farmer had found the charred skull in Devaragudihal forests outside Hubli on April 10; other chopped, charred parts were found near Gadag road outside the town.

A police team headed by Dharwad SP Krishnakant was tasked with the probe. Police said the murder occurred on April 9 and that the body was chopped and disposed of subsequently. A mobile phone that Shanaya was using during the period of the crime had helped police track down the killers, an officer said.

Shanaya was placed under arrest on April 22 after her role emerged in the crime when she was questioned following the arrest of the others on April 18, an officer said.