Day before murder, Hema Upadhyay argued with main accused over Rs 5L
Unable to confirm the motive behind the grisly double murder of well known artist Hema Upadhyay and her lawyer Harish Bhambhani, the police are on the lookout for the main accused, who they said, holds the key to the case.
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The police said the owner of the warehouse, Vidyadhar Rajbhar, is the mastermind and holds the clues to the murder conspiracy
“Most of the accused are labourers who did as they were asked. This was a pre-meditated, well-planned conspiracy. The workers told us that there was a dispute over Rs 5 lakh, but until we find the mastermind, we won’t know the true motive,” said a police officer. In a front-page report yesterday, mid-day reported how the shocking murder came to light after the mutilated bodies were found in a ditch in Kandivli on Saturday.
Watch Video: Accused confesses to smothering Hema, Harish
Cops said Hema Upadhyay and Harish Bhambhani were killed in the art warehouse in Kandivli and their bodies then had to be lugged out at least 200 metres through the corridor to the waiting tempo
Hema and her lawyer Harish were last seen on Friday evening near her art studio in Andheri. Cops have learnt that the day before that, Hema had been visited in her office by the prime accused, Vidyadhar Rajbhar, also known as Gotu. He is the owner of an art workshop and warehouse often used by Hema. They had argued over a payment of Rs 5 lakh.
The police also learnt that the last call received by Hema was from Gotu on Friday, when he called her to his warehouse. Sources said he called her under the pretext of settling their monetary dispute. According to the police, Gotu had been running the warehouse in the Gandhi Nagar-Lalji Pada area for over 20 years, and had employed six or seven workers. All are suspected to be involved.
Sources in the police said they killed Hema and Harish in one of the air-conditioned rooms at the warehouse, packed the bodies in cardboard boxes and cellophane wrapping and lugged them out to a tempo. They must have had to carry the bodies at least 200 metres out, as there is no direct approach to the warehouse for vehicles.
The tempo driver, Vikas Rajbhar, would often be called to dispose of materials that were left over or wasted after making art installations at the workshop. He told the police that never suspected that they were loading bodies in his tempo. It was only later, when he read about the bodies being found that he realised what had happened.
The estranged husband
Police officials are also scrutinising the past connection between Gotu and Hema’s estranged husband, Chintan Upadhyay. The art warehouse run by Gotu had been bought by his father, who shared a working relationship with Chintan until he died two years ago.
Gotu joined the family business later, and began to work with Hema once Chintan moved to Delhi. Sources said the contemporary art market had taken a hit in the last few years, and Gotu was upset about it. He would often ask Hema for payment.
Chintan’s father, Vidyasagar Upadhyay, a retired professor based in Jaipur, arrived in Mumbai for the last rites. He said Chintan and Hema were college sweethearts and later, their wedding had been arranged by their families. “Chintan is not involved in Hema’s murder; he could not have done it at all,” said the elderly man.
Apart from two warehouse workers and the tempo driver who were detained earlier, the police also arrested another accused worker, Shivkumar Rajbhar aka Sadhu. Sources said at least seven people are suspected to be involved:
1. Warehouse owner and main accused Vidyadhar Rajbhar aka Gotu
2. Arrested worker Shivkumar Rajbhar aka Sadhu
3. Detained tempo driver Vikas Rajbhar
4. Detained worker Pradeep
5. Detained worker Azad
6. Unidentified worker
7. Unidentified worker