A robbery bid does not seem to be the sole motive behind the murder of a homemaker from Gujarat on an express train last week. The government railway police (GRP) are considering whether an attempt was made to sexually assault her, which could have ended in murder as she fought back (the FIR mentions this possibility). An autopsy revealed that the woman was stabbed in her private parts. Investigators have also recovered a man’s shirt, cap and kerchief from the coach, which they believe could belong to the killer.

The woman, aged 40, was travelling by the Bhuj-Dadar Superfast Express last Friday. She boarded the ladies compartment around 8.20am at Surat; the compartment has only 20 berths. Between Surat and Dadar, the train halts only at Vasai and Borivli, where all other passengers from the compartment got off. When the train reached Dadar at noon, the woman’s body, in the nude, was found on the floor, though covered with a saree. Her throat had been slit and there was blood all over. The police later learnt that she was wearing a gold chain and earrings, which were missing.

A forensic expert from BYL Nair Hospital, where the woman’s autopsy was carried out, told TOI that she was stabbed in her privates. “As the crime scene was covered in blood and her body injured badly, we couldn’t establish whether she was a victim of sexual assault. We have sent her vaginal swabs to the Forensic Science Laboratory, Kalina. If semen stains are found, it will indicate rape,” he said. The doctor added that there were signs that the woman put up a tough fight and resisted the attack. “The attack occurred in a duration within 40 minutes—between 11.21am when the train left Borivli and noon, when it reached Dadar. There was no RPF escort in the compartment. The woman was not carrying a phone,” said a police officer.

Her grief-stricken family is desperate to find out who killed her and why. Her husband, who works in a textiles showroom, had dropped her at Surat station on Friday morning. CCTV cameras there have captured them smiling and chatting as they walked. The woman was in a red saree. “At 3pm, we got a phone call about her murder. Her husband had never wanted her to travel to Mumbai as their daughter’s exam was on. But she was keen to visit her mother’s relative, who recently had a surgery. She was a simple and sweet-natured person who got along with everyone and had no enemies,” the husband’s uncle told TOI. He said the woman had made several solo trips to Mumbai in the past by train, the last before Raksha Bandhan. “We are aware of a piece of a man’s clothing being recovered from the coach and we hope its examination yields strong clues,” he said.

The GRP has sent the saree and the piece of clothing for forensic examination, and formed four teams to solve the case. One of the teams has gone to Surat to make inquiries.