Less than 24 hours after MiD DAY reported the mysterious disappearance of Vinod Gulab, an 84-year-old Pune-based businessman who was about to sell off his Rs 30 crore flat in Juhu, the Pune crime branch has solved the case. Ibrahim Shaikh and Ravindra Shankar Reddy — the two real estate agents who had bought the Juhu flat from Gulab, have been charged with the murder of the senior citizen and his assistant. Following the confession of the duo, the police recovered the charred bodies of Gulab and his assistant, Usha Nair (54) from Kashedi Ghat late on Saturday evening.
Gulab, who dabbled in the real estate business, and Nair had gone missing from April 30, even as the former was in the process of selling his sprawling flat at Janki Kutir apartment in Juhu. A complaint had also been registered at Pune’s Koregaon Park police station by Gulab’s brother.
Addressing a late night press conference in Pune yesterday, Pune crime branch officers said the two accused identified as Ibrahim Shaikh and Ravindra Shankar Reddy had finalised the property deal with Gulab and had even paid him a token amount of Rs 4 crore. But they were unable to pay the entire sum of Rs 30 crore and therefore, decided to kill the elderly man as soon as he signed the agreement. The Pune police, who were on the lookout for both the accused, had sent their description to Mumbai police as well.
The first clue came on Saturday morning when an informer approached Senior Inspector Sanjay Satardekar of unit 9 informing him about two suspicious people loitering around near Janki Kutir claiming they had bought a flat from Gulab. As the police questioned the two, they turned out to be the same accused who were last seen with the deceased and were the main suspects in the case. Both were detained and handed over to the Pune crime branch.
In their confession, Reddy and Shaikh said they had planned the murder well in advance. The accused had asked Gulab to bring the property papers and the keys to his flat with him. They told him that Ibrahim had a property in Pune and they were interested to show the property to him. They then hired a Toyota Innova and set off for Pune. As they reached Katraj Ghat they stopped the vehicle and dragged the victims out of the car, strangulated them and then set them on fire after pouring the kerosene on them. The bodies were then taken to the nearby Kashedi village and dumped. The police recovered the charred bodies from the village yesterday.
During interrogations, it emerged that Gulab had recently decided to sell off the 3,000-sqft flat for Rs 30 crore. He had even accepted Rs 4 crore as token money from the buyer. “He was last seen on April 30, while leaving his Konark Enclave apartment in Pune with Usha and getting in to her Maruti SX4 car. Since there was no trace of the duo after that, their families registered a missing complaint at the local police station.
A Pune crime branch officer told SMD that Gulab and his siblings ran a business till a few years ago. They then went their separate ways after dividing the property. Gulab, who acquired the Juhu flat, dabbled in real estate deals after that.