Sonam Shelar was five months pregnant. Photo / Supplied
Sonam Shelar was five months pregnant. Photo / Supplied

Pregnant woman found washed up on beach

THE body of missing pregnant Wellington woman Sonam Shelar was found by surfers, washed up on a difficult to access private Wairarapa beach.

Wellington police searching for Sonam, who was five months' pregnant and who went missing last Saturday, confirmed a body was recovered from the White Rock beach.

Detective Senior Sergeant Warwick McKee said her body was found by surfers visiting from Wellington.

Formal identification is yet to take place but the body is believed to be that of the 26-year-old Wellington woman.

McKee said police could not yet comment on the cause of death. 

A local farmer said the body was found by members of the public on the shore several kilometres south of the white rock that the beach is named for.

He said police from Carterton arrived within an hour.

The remote area can be reached from a winding, narrow gravel road, crowded with loose sheep, cows and hares.

The bumpy trip takes 45 minutes to an hour after turning off from Martinborough, and comes out to an isolated black sand beach hemmed by sharp peaks rising into the low cloud.

The farmer who runs the station said the body was found much further down the shore on his neighbour's private land, at Ngapotiki Station.

The station is blocked off with a locked gate - and anybody heading that way who didn't have a key would have to walk, he said.

Police removed the body to prevent it from being washed away by the tide, he said.

Sonam moved to New Zealand in April after marrying husband Sagar Shelar in December last year, and was five months' pregnant at the time of her disappearance.

Sagar said he had been contacted by police about the body of a pregnant woman being found on White Rock beach. He had not been told anything about how the woman had died, he said.

Sagar declined to speak to the Herald but told Stuff he and his wife had never been to the remote Wairarapa beach. He did not think she had enough money on her to travel there.

Sonam's mother collapsed when news of her death reached home in India, family spokesman and family member Harshal Putkar told the Herald.

"It might be a murder, that is what I'm saying, that is what her family thinks, especially her mother."

Sonam's family were adamant that she was not upset about an ultrasound scan indicating that she was having a girl and say she would not harm herself.

"When she [Sonam's mother] came to her senses she's told [the family] all these things, that she had transferred some money to them," he said.

"Then she said there used to be fights between them and Sagar used to give her a call and say that Sonam's not doing well."

Earlier this week Sagar told the Herald that Sonam had wanted a boy but an ultrasound scan was inconclusive and she was upset.

"On November 15 we went for an ultrasound test at the hospital," Sagar told the Herald.

"She had always dreamed for a baby boy but that day after the ultrasound they were not sure if it was a girl or boy.

"As soon as we got in the car she was crying and so upset because she wanted a boy."

Sagar later said that police had searched his home and said: "I know that I'm still their first suspect but I know that I haven't done anything wrong."

Putkar said last night that Sonam's family did not believe she would have been upset if she was having a girl.

The night after she had the ultrasound scan, Sonam had called home and was sounding "very normal".

"This thing which is going on in the news that she was upset because she wanted a baby boy, this news is not right, it is not true," Putkar said.

"She wanted a baby boy but she was never upset about having a baby girl … on the same day they had the medical check-up she was not at all upset."

The family saw Sonam as a mentally strong woman and the thought of her harming herself was completely unlikely.

A fitness trainer in India, Sonam had stopped working after moving to New Zealand and becoming pregnant, Putkar said.

Sonam would often ring home and speak to her mother and Putkar, admitting things were difficult at home.

"Sagar was upset with her, saying that she's not working and everything," Putkar said.

"She was facing problems, like she wasn't willing to work or not willing to eat - that happens with normal pregnancy problems so he was upset on her because of that.

"He was complaining with her mother regarding that, telling her he has to work for all of the things for her."

Sonam's mother tried to convince her daughter to make an effort and be nice to Sagar, doing little things around the home so he did not have to.

Sagar had also complained to his mother-in-law about money problems the couple was facing, including working a job which he thought did not pay well enough.

He had contacted Sonam's mother and asked for money to be transferred to his account so he could extent Shelar's visa.

"Once [Sagar] had told my family to take her away back to India," Putkar said.

"There was a time when her husband wanted her to go back to India, he was acting like he was fed up with her.

"Sonam said she wanted to live there because the medical things are really good and she never wanted to fly when she was pregnant."

After being notified by Wellington police yesterday about her body being found, Putkar said the family was trying to fly to New Zealand as soon as possible.

Putkar reiterated the "wrong image" of Sonam had been presented by claims she was mentally disturbed or upset because she was having a girl.

"She was a strong-willed girl and she would never do anything … we can't imagine she would commit suicide," he told the Herald.

A police spokeswoman said they wanted to hear from anybody who could have seen Sonam Shelar on Friday, November 16, or Saturday, November 17.

Sonam was last seen wearing a brown jacket with fur on the hood, as well as white, black and orange trainers.

If you or anyone else you know needs support, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14

This article was published in the New Zealand Herald and has been republished here with permission.

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