Gopal Sejani wanted to be a police officer when he grew up. Everyone in his village can remember him playing ‘cops and robbers’ in the yard.
‘It’s impossible to escape,’ he would yell at his friends, imitating India’s most famous Bollywood detective Bajirao Singham. It’s a poignant memory.
Gopal was just two when his mother abandoned him and his father became too ill to look after him. Neighbours took pity on the ‘orphaned’ toddler and raised him as their own.
Home was a cramped and dilapidated stone outhouse, on a smallholding in rural Gujarat, which accommodated the now nine-strong family; in just a couple of rooms.
Arti Dhir, 55, and her husband Kaval Raijada, 31, are pictured leaving court. We now know a lot more about the couple, who face six charges in India including conspiracy to murder and kidnapping, following our own inquiries both here and in India
But Gopal was happy and very much loved. He liked to draw, especially cartoons, and he won a school prize for a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi.
After class — when he wasn’t making an ‘arrest’ — he would help harvest the crops or lend a hand with domestic chores.
Until one terrible night back in 2017. Gopal was returning from a trip to the city; he never made it home. At around 9.30pm, the car he was in was ambushed by men on a motorbike.
Gopal was dragged from the vehicle and stabbed and a relative was fatally wounded trying to save him.
The little boy was found, barely alive, on the side of the road by a passing rickshaw and taken to hospital where, hooked up to tubes, his family took one last photograph of him before he died.
His friends, his teachers, his village, they were all bereft. Gopal was ten years old.
‘Not a single day goes by when we can sleep peacefully,’ is how the Kardani family, who treated him as their baby brother, summed up their loss when we met them in Maliya Hatina yesterday, not far from the popular Gir National Park in Gujarat.
Gopal was just two when his mother abandoned him and his father became too ill to look after him. Neighbours took pity on the ‘orphaned’ toddler and raised him as their own. The boy is pictured above in hospital
The culprits who seized and attacked Gopal thought the life of an impoverished little boy didn’t matter; that the police in this part of the world, on India’s western coast, probably weren’t up to the job anyway.
They were wrong. Five suspects have since been arrested and will stand trial for murder and kidnap.
But the tragedy of Gopal Sejani doesn’t end in Gujarat. It leads more than 4,000 miles — back to Britain; to Hanwell in West London.
It is where former Heathrow workers Arti Dhir, 55, and her husband Kaval Raijada, 31, live on the first floor of a modern block at the end of a row of Victorian houses; they have become central figures in these shocking events.
They are familiar faces in the local shops and pay their bills at the Post Office round the corner. No one really has a bad word to say about them.
Yet this unlikely couple — she raises funds for a breast cancer charity — living an ordinary life in an ordinary flat in an ordinary street have been accused of arranging the murder of Gopal.
According to the Gujarati police, they planned to claim £150,000 from a life insurance policy taken out on Gopal after Arti Dhir (pictured above) agreed to adopt him before hiring a gang to kill him — with the help of her husband — and dump his body in the gutter like a piece of rubbish
The motive, it is claimed, was money. According to the Gujarati police, they planned to claim £150,000 from a life insurance policy taken out on Gopal after Arti Dhir agreed to adopt him before hiring a gang to kill him — with the help of her husband — and dump his body in the gutter like a piece of rubbish.
Such a scenario almost defies belief; that a plot to murder a little boy in cold blood on another continent was plotted from a pokey housing association flat in Hanwell.
Lace-effect curtains hang in the windows, along with a lemon and dried chilli peppers in the door frame which, in Indian culture, is said to ward off bad luck.
We now know a lot more about the couple, who face six charges in India including conspiracy to murder and kidnapping, following our own inquiries both here and in India.
Arti Dhir and Kaval Raijada were air freight representatives for Worldwide Flight Services (WFS). They were sacked, the company confirmed, for a ‘breach of contract’ in 2016, the year before Gopal was killed.
The dismissals were at odds with the reputation they enjoyed in the warehouse.
Arti, in particular, was very popular and ‘fun to be with’, recalled a former colleague, and readily participated in office trips to the seaside and the races as well as nights out in the West End.
Most of the time, the colleague said, her husband wasn’t with her which became a bit of a standing joke: ‘Is Kaval joining us tonight?’ her workmates would ask to which she replied: ‘No, he’s staying at home, he’s on his computer.’
The little boy was found, barely alive, on the side of the road by a passing rickshaw and taken to hospital where, hooked up to tubes, his family took one last photograph of him before he died
At 55, of course, Arti Dhir was 25 years older than Kaval Raijada; one shopkeeper near their home thought he was actually her son.
In fact, they were married at a lunchtime register office ceremony at Ealing Town Hall in 2013.
But one of the alleged accomplices in the Gopal case cast doubt on their intentions after he was arrested on his return to India.
In his statement, he claimed Raijada told him he got married to enable him to extend his visa. So was it just a marriage of convenience?
The Indian authorities now want the couple extradited, as this country would if the position were reversed.
However, last week the High Court refused to do so because judges argued that this would breach their human rights on the basis that they face the prospect of a sentence of life without parole if convicted in India.
Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights — which comes under the auspices of the Council of Europe, not the EU — was introduced after World War II in response to the Holocaust.
Surely, it was never intended to prevent the deportation of two people facing charges of double murder (Gopal’s older brother-in-law was also fatally wounded trying to save him) to a friendly Commonwealth country with a British-style