In a show of ineptitude that is mind-boggling even by Malwani police standards, officials from the police station allegedly raided the den of the prime accused in the hooch tragedy and left several hundred litres of pure, deadly methanol behind, assuming it was water.
Mumbai hooch tragedy: How methanol mafia killed over 100 in city
Crime Branch officers recovered eight drums full of methanol from the spot
Crime Branch officials and local residents say the Malwani police team returned empty handed from the den of illicit liquor seller Francis D’Mello in Rathodi village, which had at least five drums of the killer liquid in plain sight, without even breaking the seal of any of the drums.
Crime Branch officials at the den of Francis D’Mello (circled) during the raid on Sunday, during which they seized the drums and alcohol
“They just checked the place and left. They did not even open the drums to see what they contained. Assuming they were filled with water, the police officials left the drums untouched,” said a resident of the village, who witnessed the raid.
Not only did the local police not open the drums, they also missed the entrances to two hidden rooms, one of which is seen above
The raid by the Malwani police was carried out on Saturday, two days after the hooch tragedy, and when the Crime Branch searched the same premises a day later, they recovered nine drums eight of them full of methanol, along with several barrels of illegal liquor.
mid-day had reported on Monday how some of the drums and barrels were hidden in two rooms inside the den, one of which was underground and the other had a camouflaged entrance. Crime Branch officials said that the Malwani police team did not even realise these rooms existed.
These revelations have turned up the heat on the officials of the Malwani police, some of whom are already battling allegations of conniving with the bootleggers and letting them operate freely for as little as Rs 600 a month.
Speaking to mid-day yesterday, Additional Commissioner of Police (North region) Fateh Singh Patil said an inquiry will be conducted. “The Malwani police were looking for spurious alcohol at the time and they may have mistaken the drums of methanol as water. We will conduct an inquiry into the matter,” said Patil.
“D’Mello is one of the major dealers of illicit alcohol and our investigation has led us to suspect that the liquor, which killed at least 106 people, had come from his den.
If we had not seized the eight drums which the local police had left behind, the methanol could have been picked up by D’Mello’s accomplices, mixed in more hooch and sold to people, leading to hundreds of more deaths,” said a Crime Branch official.
Mumbai hooch horror: Senior Malwani cops looked the other way for Rs 600 a month?
Officials also said the drums were a key piece of evidence, based on which D’Mello had begun talking and led them to his supplier Mansoor Khan alias Atik and the two meth-anol suppliers from Gujarat, Iqbal and Deepak Patel.