Offered Rs 22 lakh supari in attempt to escape excruciatingly lengthy divorce and increasing alimony demands, say cops; prime suspect Vidyadhar Rajbhar remains elusive piece in jigsaw
The police’s surprise move of arresting Chintan Upadhyay yesterday came after the artist confessed that he had plotted the murder of his estranged wife, Hema, and her lawyer, Harish Bhambhani, and had even paid Rs 22 lakh to the killers for the job. What’s more, Chintan — a well-known contemporary artist — drew a detailed storyboard to explain to the killers how they should carry out the murder.
Hema Upadhyay murder: Cops can't find Gotu, so they are pinning it on Chintan, says lawyer
If you say so: Chintan Upadhyay in a performance piece from 2013
Joining the dots
This confession came nearly 10 days after the double murder came to light with the discovery of the mutilated bodies of Hema and her lawyer in a Kandivali ditch on December 12. While Chintan had been questioned by the Crime Branch every day, the Kandivali police did not get access to him, said sources in the force. In turn, the Kandivali police, who had custody of the four other arrested accused, did not give the Crime Branch access to them. Because of this, a link could not be established between Chintan and the murder plot.
After a week of claiming innocence every time he was questioned by the Crime Branch, Chintan confessed to the Kandivali police that he plotted the murder of his wife and her lawyer. File pic
The main theory was that Hema and Harish were killed in an art warehouse in Kandivali, owned by the main accused Vidyadhar Rajbhar, also known as Gotu. But investigations showed that on the day of the murder, Hema had received a call not from Gotu, but one of his workers, Pradeep. When the police questioned Pradeep, he spilled the beans and said Gotu had used his cell phone to call Hema to mislead the police. Pradeep went to state that this idea — the whole murder plot, in fact — was concocted by Hema’s husband, Chintan.
So, late on Monday night, after the Crime Branch had finished questioning him, Chintan was summoned by the Kandivali police. He was made to sit across the four other arrested accused — tempo driver Vijay Rajbhar, Pradeep Rajbhar, Azad Rajbhar and Shivkumar Rajbhar — as they were all cross-questioned. According to sources, within a few hours, Chintan confessed to the investigators that he had plotted the murders as he was fed up of Hema’s increasing demands for money.
Chintan told the police that initially Hema had demanded Rs 25,000 as alimony, which she later increased to Rs 40,000 and then to Rs 1 lakh. He didn’t want to keep doling out money to her, and so planned to get rid of her. But this would require money as well. Chintan said the killers had asked him for Rs 30 lakh to carry out the plan, but they settled on Rs 22 lakh.
Officers from Kandivali police station said that Chintan had even come down to Mumbai from Delhi on December 9 for a detailed meeting with Gotu and his workers in a Chembur hotel. He told the police he had even sketched the scenario on sheets of paper to explain the whole plan to Gotu, Pradeep and the tempo driver Vijay.
It was his idea to lure Hema to the warehouse — Gotu was instructed to tell her that he had an incriminating video of Chintan with another woman. It was his intention from the beginning to kill not just Hema but also her lawyer. The killers were warned not to make any noise, to avoid drawing the attention of passers-by. The tempo driver, Vijay, was to keep a watch outside as the rest of them killed Hema and Harish. The bodies would then be wrapped and loaded in the tempo, dumped in a creek, where they would either be devoured by animals or rot beyond recognition.
However, the tempo driver lost his nerve upon seeing the bodies, and decided to tip off the police about it. He also told the police that there was another man in a red shirt who drove all of them to meet with Chintan, but did not join them for the meeting. The police are on the lookout for the man.