This story is about 2 sisters who with their mother abducted and brutally murdered up to 13 children are due to become the first women hanged in India for 72 years.
Serial killer sisters Seema Gavit (left) and Renuka Shinde (right) are fighting against becoming the first women to be executed in India in 72 years
They stole from people mainly in the streets of India’s ninth largest city Pune, in Maharashtra state, 40 per cent of whose population live in slums.
But two events were to turn Anjana into something more sinister, a kidnapper and murderer with her daughters as assistants.
A cold-eyed criminal, she had been arrested for 125 cases of petty theft including pick pocketing and snatching people’s gold chains from around their necks at railway stations, Anjana had become a thief after her first husband, a truck driver, deserted her after the birth of Renuka.
Then her second husband, a retired soldier named Mohan Gavit, left her after the birth of Seema.
He married another woman named Pratima and the couple had a baby girl.
In 1990, Anjana, 58, ordered her daughters to abduct Mohan and Pratima’s daughter, Kranti, who she murdered
Around the same time, Renuka was with her toddler son Aashish in the process of pickpocketing someone in a temple complex when the victim caught her.
An angry crowd surrounded Renuka, but using the boy as a foil, Renuka said “How can a woman with a child commit a crime?”.
The crowd let her go.
It was after this that Anjana decided the trio would always take a child along when committing a theft.
Anjana expanded the syndicate’s operations to other Indian cities or suburbs — Thane and Kalyan in Mumbai, Kolhapur, and Nashik — in Maharashtra.
Renuka’s husband Kiran drove the getaway car.
Over the next six years up to 40 children were kidnapped.
Some were let go, others were deliberately injured to create a distraction, or murdered when they had lost their usefulness.
At least nine were murdered and among the victims were a nine-month-old and two 18-month-olds.
The youngest victim of the three Gavit killers was nine months old(right).
One of the nine children kidnapped and murdered(left).
In 1991, they kidnapped nine-month-old Naresh, who was starved and beaten to death because he cried too much.
There she was drowned with one of the sisters holding the girls’ legs to stop her flailing in the water.
In 1993, they abducted a one-year-old child named Bunti and a girl, Swaty, 2, from Kalyan Railway station in Mumbai, and a boy Guddu, 2, from another Mumbai station.
The three women murdered Bunti and Guddu and disposed of their bodies.
In 1994, they kidnapped a child Anjali, 2, in Nashik and killed her and disposed of the body with Kiran Shinde’s help.
In 1995, they kidnapped a boy Raja from a bus stop in Kolhapur and killed him.
They kidnapped Pankaj Mamondkar, aged four, but he proved liable to talk to passers-by about his parents.
In 1996, the women hung him upside down from the ceiling and slammed his head against a wall until he was dead.
In November 1996, Anjana hatched a plot to kidnap and murder her ex-husband Mohan’s second daughter.
One police investigator remembers all three women as being tough witnesses, but particularly the matriarch Anjana.
“She would just sit there and look. Never once did that woman crack,” he said.
But eventually Seema broke down, admitting to the kidnapping and killing of Kranti, which she said it was all under their mother’s orders.
Detectives searched their home, uncovering the discarded clothing of children.
They also found photographs of unknown toddlers at the birthday parties of Renuka’s children.
Eventually the four were charged with kidnapping 13 children and killing nine.
In December 1997, Anjana died in custody while awaiting trial.
The sisters were found guilty of six of the nine murders, but one of the killings was overturned on appeal in the High Court of Mumbai.
In 2001, the Kolhapur Sessions Court sentenced Seema and Renuka to death.
Renuka’s four children have visited their mother, now aged in her late 40s, and their aunt Seema, 45, in prison.
The once attractive women are now gaunt and drawn, though both are hopeful of escaping the death sentence, lawyer Sudeep Jaiswal said.
Seema is the more talkative of the two, and determined to win their petition for mercy.
They are among 13 women on death row in India, whose ranks include Fahmida Sayed, one of the trio who planted the twin car bombs in Mumbai that killed 54 people in 2003.
No woman has been hanged in India since 1955, when Rattan Bai Jain, who killed three girls, became the first woman sent to the gallows since independence.