The body of Squadron Leader (Retd.) Baldev Singh, director of corporate planning and marketing of the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL), was found hanging from a tree atop Nandi Hills, a popular hill station near this tech hub, police said Tuesday.
"Fiftyeight-year-old Baldev Singh was found hanging with his turban cloth from tree. We have registered a case of unnatural death," Chickballapur District Superintendent of Police S. Pawar told IANS.
The former chief test pilot and fighter pilot of the Indian Air Force (IAF) was also the executive director of flight operations at HAL till he took charge as director Aug 16. He left home in his official car around 9 a.m. towards the Bangalore international airport near Devanahalli, about 40 km from city centre.
"On reaching the flyover that connects the airport and National Highway No.7, Baldev Singh asked his driver (Rajesh) to get down. Telling the driver that he had to pick up a friend on the way ahead, he drove the Maruti SX4 car himself on the highway towards Nandi Hills, 50 km from here," Pawar said.
"When there was no sign of Baldev Singh or any response from him till noon, a worried driver reported the matter to the HAL security officer," Pawar said, quoting from the FIR (first information report).
What appeared to be a pre-meditated move, Baldev Singh took away the driver's mobile handset saying his own cellphone was not working, and asked him to wait near the flyover till he returned.
"On receiving information from HAL security officer that Baldev Singh was missing in the area, we sent a wireless message to all police stations in our jurisdiction to trace the car and rushed a search party up to Nandi Hills," Pawar said.
"It was only on its return journey from atop the hill that the search party spotted the car parked on the slopes of the hills and his body hanging from a tree," said Deputy Superintendent of Police Cheluvaraj.
Confirming the tragic death of Baldev Singh under mysterious circumstances, HAL chairman Ashok Nayak said it was too early to say what forced Baldev Singh to take such an extreme step.
"I have no details on what led him to do this (commit suicide), as I am in Delhi. He has been very good at work and I have known him for long as he was our chief test pilot and executive director of flight operations. It is very unfortunate and a great loss to us as he was recently appointed director," Nayak told IANS.
According to the information gathered by police from witnesses, Baldev Singh first tried to drive the car into the nearby forest behind the Brahmagiri Hills adjacent to Nandi Hills.
"As there was a lake in between and no road to drive further, we suspect Baldev Singh drove towards Nandi Hills to locate a spot from where he could not be seen on what he was up to by either passing vehicles or passersby," Pawar recalled.
Baldev Singh leaves behind wife Vibhu and two sons -- Mohit Singh and Nimith Singh. Mohit lives in Singapore and Nimith in the US.
His body, which was identified by his brother Harpeet Singh, was handed over to his relatives after post-mortem examination at Chickballapur.