The mystery surrounding the murder of Indian-origin Preethi Reddy has deepened as Australian police are still working to fill in the gaps between when she went missing on Sunday and when her body was found.
Investigative efforts have been hindered by the fact that their only suspect in the case, another Indian-origin dentist and her ex-boyfriend Harshwardhan Narde, died after his BMW car collided with a truck on the New England Highway on Monday night, a day after his ex-girlfriend was reported missing, New South Wales Police (NSW) said.
The head-on collision, around 340 kilometres from where Reddy’s body was found, is believed to have been deliberate, they said.
Preethi Reddy's body was found stuffed in a suitcase, with numerous stab wounds, in her car parked in an eastern Sydney street on Tuesday night.
Police reportedly believe Narde travelled 400 km from Tamworth to Sydney for a continuing education course conference which Preethi was attending with the sole purpose of seeing his ex-girlfriend.
“Preethi told him she had met someone else and that it was serious and she was moving to Melbourne,” an anonymous source told the newspaper. A colleague of Reddy and Narde said he last saw the pair chatting animatedly in the hotel lobby following the event on Saturday night.
A few hours later, Reddy was captured on CCTV inside McDonald’s at the Strand Arcade in Sydney about 2.15 am on Sunday.
CCTV footage shows Reddy standing at the counter before she appeared to leave alone and walk south on Market St. Further surveillance footage shows her entering the Swissotel foyer about five minutes later.
A NSW Police spokesperson said Reddy stayed in the hotel with “a man known to her” overnight.
At 11 am on Sunday, she allegedly spoke to her family over the phone and told them she would have a late breakfast then head home to Penrith. But when she failed to return that night, her family reported her missing to Nepean Police Area Command and created a Facebook page to help find her.
The police also said they spoke to Narde as part of the missing persons investigation, before his death.
“I cannot qualify exactly what has happened and I won’t put it out there because if we’re wrong and it’s not substantiated, then we’re doing a disservice to Preethi and her family,” Detective Superintendent Gavin Dengate told the ABC News.
“At this stage we know they met up in Sydney and now we’re looking at all the movements between these two,” the officer was quoted as saying.
Narde was captured on the hotel’s CCTV camera getting help from a hotel porter to lift a large and heavy suitcase into the boot of a car on Sunday afternoon, according to The Daily Telegraph.
The bag, which was discovered in the boot of Preethi's car on a laneway in Sydney’s eastern suburbs around 9.30 pm on Tuesday, contained her body. She had been stabbed numerous times.
Reddy’s sister, Nithya Reddy, said in a statement that her family was heartbroken and still trying to understand her final movements.
“Words cannot capture the pain we are feeling with the passing of my beautiful big sister,” she said. “While we now know that Preethi is no longer with us, the certainty of her movements on Saturday night and Sunday morning are not yet fully known, and we will stay in touch with detectives as they work it all out.”
The NSW police said they were appealing for information in relation to her whereabouts from Sunday to Tuesday.