Mumbai: Four youths accused of kidnapping and killing teenager Adnan Patrawala here in 2007 were on Monday acquitted by a local court on account of lack of evidence, a verdict dubbed by the victim's family as "shocking".

The sessions court let off Sujit Nair, Ayush Bhat, Rajeev Dharaiya and Amit Kausha - aged between 25 and 31 - as the prosecution failed to prove the charges against them. The fifth accused, a juvenile, is being tried by the Juvenile Justice Board.

The prosecution's case was that Adnan, son of a businessman in suburban Andheri, was allegedly kidnapped by these five "friends" on August 19, 2007 after he went to meet them in Inorbit Mall in Malad in his father's Skoda car.

The five, who had befriended Patrawala through a social networking site, then asked the victim to drive with them to suburban Kandivli. They allegedly spiked a drink he was made to have. They strangled the 16-year-old to death in Navi Mumbai after their plan to extort Rs 2 crore as ransom went awry as news of the kidnapping had broken on TV and the police launched a manhunt for them, it said.

Subsequently, Patrawala's body was found in his car on Palm Beach Road in Vashi.

Charges of kidnap, murder, extortion and destruction of evidence were framed against all the youths in June 2009. Outside the court, defence lawyer Ashish Chavan said the prosecution "miserably" failed to prove the charges.

"The prosecution claimed that all the accused conspired and committed the crime with a clear intention. One witness called Dias had been produced before the court, which had completely disbelieved his statement. Moreover, his statement has gone against the prosecution," he said.

Special Public Prosecutor in the case Ujjwal Nikam was not present in the court during the judgement. He was also not available for comment.