Mumbai, May 11: A Sessions Court awarded life imprisonment to the two convicts in 2012 murder of budding actor Meenakshi Thapa. Additional Sessions Judge SG Shette found Amit Jaiswal (36) and his girlfriend, Preeti Surin (26), guilty under IPC sections 302 (murder) and 364-A (kidnapping for ransom) on May 9. Also Read - Delhi Court Sentences Brajesh Thakur, 11 Others to Life Imprisonment in Muzaffarpur Shelter Home Case

A total of 36 witnesses, of whom one, an Uttar Pradesh police official, turned hostile, were examined in connection with the case. Also Read - Sanjiv Bhatt's Wife Claims Husband Victim of Political Vindictiveness, Officials Counter

According to the prosecution, Jaiswal and Surin, both hailing from Uttar Pradesh, had befriended Thapa (26) on the sets of ‘Heroine’, a Bollywood film directed by Madhur Bhandarkar. Both the accused used to work as model coordinators. Also Read - BJP Minister's Son in Arunachal Pradesh Gets Life Imprisonment For Murder

The duo was under the impression that the actor belonged to a rich family, hence hatched a conspiracy to abduct her and demand a Rs 15-lakh ransom from her family. They also persuaded the actor, who had moved to Mumbai from Dehradun only two months ago, to accompany them to Uttar Pradesh on March 12, 2012, saying there was an acting assignment for her.

Subsequently, they had abducted her, but after realising that her family was in no position to pay up, strangulated her, according to the prosecution.

The remains of the actor’s body, with the head severed, were found in the sewage tank of a house in Allahabad a month after the incident.

The duo had come under the lens of the police as Thapa was last seen with them. Call details and other evidence had confirmed their involvement, a Crime Branch official said.

Jaiswal and Surin were arrested when they were withdrawing money, using Thapa’s debit card, from an ATM in suburban Bandra, he added.

(With PTI inputs)