The Bombay High Court verdict acquitting Salman Khan may have come as an incredibly lucky break for the star, but for Feroze Sheikh, the son of Noorullah Sharif who was crushed under the wheels of the car in which the actor was travelling on the night of September 28, 2002, it has meant a childhood lost to abject poverty.
The 27-year-old man who lived with his mother in a slum in Malad told The Telegraph they were shooed away by by Khan's guards when they knocked on his gates to ask for help.
"To his guards we were like dirty dogs. Yet I bear nobody any grudge. His acquittal or conviction means nothing to me, I lost my childhood. I know it was not worth much even when my father was around as we were still poor. But I was not an orphan," Sheikh told the paper.
The 49-year-old actor broke down after the verdict and thanked his family, friends and fans for their support on Twitter.
The Bombay High Court set aside the five years jail term by sessions court and acquitted him of all the charges, holding that the prosecution had failed to prove he was driving the vehicle after having consumed alcohol.
Justice A R Joshi told a jam-packed courtroom: "The appeal is allowed. The trial court's verdict is quashed and set aside... Salman is acquitted of all the charges."
Salman's driver Ashok Singh, in his deposition as a defence witness, had told the trial court that it was he who was at the wheel and not the actor. He also said that he had gone to the police after the mishap but his statement was not recorded.
Sheikh has forgiven Khan. He has even moved on -- "There was a time when some compensation was promised to us from his side. It never came. I still watch his movies" -- but his mother told The Indian Express that if Khan bought his son a small grocery shop "he would be in a position to feed his family".
"His father died when he was just 12 years old and I had to stop his studies so that he could support the family. Since then, he has been doing odd jobs. So any kind of financial help will help my family,” said Begum Jahan.
"We are poor, but that does not mean our lives are worthless,” she said.
The High Court threw out all the evidence that had been considered by the sessions court in May, calling the Mumbai Police's probe "highly deplorable". It slammed the testimonies of Khan's deceased police bodyguard Ravindra Patil, calling him "a wholly unreliable witness" over the differences in his statements.
Sheikh said even after 13 years there has been no closure.
"Now I don’t know who killed my father".
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