Banking on a bar owner to nab wanted murderer Ashok Purohit, badly backfired on the cops yesterday when the bar owner Raju Pandit and his partner Nilesh Mandal warned the killer instead and helped him escape. The reason? Purohit was a much-valued customer who spent long hours at their bar every night, drinking liquor and lavishing money on the bar dancers!
The cops managed to save face however, when in true Hindi film style, a pretty bar dancer who Purohit lavished money on, and who felt slighted at having been recently cold shouldered by the management, revealing everything to the cops, following which both the bar owners were arrested on Saturday.
Raju Ganga Pandit (35) and his partner Nilesh Degan Mandal (30), owners of Sheetal bar on Grant Road, were formally arrested by officers of Unit 7 of the city’s crime branch for helping Purohit escape. Both accused are residents of Vashi Naka, Chembur.
Purohit, the man who escaped, is one of the main accused in the murder of Chetana Ajmera, wife of a prominent city-based builder. Ajmera, a resident of Ghatkopar, was killed on May 7, 2012 at her residence and ornaments and cash worth Rs 1.40 crore were robbed from her house. The city crime branch is currently investigating the matter.
According to the police, on February 25, they arrested one Hemant Ambalal Maneria in this case. During interrogation Maneria disclosed that his associate Ashok Purohit was also involved in the murder. Purohit, a native of Rajasthan was a cook at the Ajmera residence. He was absconding since the murder.
It was Maneria who told the cops that Purohit was a regular at Sheetal bar. Soon after inspector Vinayak Vast, assistant inspectors Anil Dhole, Santosh Sawant and woman sub-inspector Sapana Kshirsagar laid a trap for Purohit at Sheetal. They took the bar owners into confidence, provided them with photographs of Purohit and told them to tip off the local police station as soon as he was spotted next time. The owners promised to help.
However, on Friday officers of Unit 7 were shocked to find out that instead of informing the police, Pandit and Mandal had tipped off Purohit about his impending arrest, minutes before he entered the bar. Purohit immediately escaped and left Mumbai.
“The owners figured they had a lot to lose if one of their biggest customers was arrested. So they helped Purohit instead,” said SI Vyankat Patil.
But the owners hadn’t bargained for a scorned bar girl. The woman, who was apparently a favourite of Purohit and for some reason was upset with the owners, told the cops they had forced her to warn her customer (Purohit) to run away. Based on her statement, Pandit and Mandal were arrested.