The youth auto driver who was assaulted mercilessly and killed by a drunken fellow auto driver in Govandi had made a frantic SOS call to a constable for help. But the accused snatched the 20-year-old’s phone and disconnected it. The call, sadly, seemed to have been so brief that it was barely noticeable for the cop, who in any case had been sleeping.

Also read: Drunk auto driver jumps queue, beats fellow driver to death

Shahaji Galande Imran Ali Sheikh
Shahaji Galande and Imran Ali Sheikh

mid-day had yesterday reported on Imran Sheikh’s murder, which occurred last Friday. Sheikh had just begun driving an auto rickshaw two months ago, and had started going to a share auto stand outside Govandi railway station.

mid-day’s February 20 report on the incident
mid-day’s February 20 report on the incident

On that fateful night, Sheikh was waiting for his final passenger when the accused, Shahaji Galande (25), came there in an inebriated state and jumped the queue by parking his vehicle in front of Sheikh’s. When the latter protested, an argument ensued. Galande turned physical, punched and kicked Sheikh’s chest, and left him there to die.

Investigation has now revealed that a few minutes before he died, Sheikh had called a constable from Shivaji Nagar police station, Satish Chavan, for help. However, Galande quickly snatched Sheikh’s phone and disconnected the call. So brief was the ring that Chavan, who was asleep in any case, couldn’t hear it.

Speaking to mid-day, Chavan said, “A few hours before the murder, around 9 pm, my colleague and I were on our way home. We took Imran’s auto to the station. During the ride, he spoke of harassment from other auto drivers. I asked him for more details and he said that the drivers, who are drug addicts, were not letting him work and would threaten him. I found Imran to be a genuine person who was living to earn for his family.”

Chavan gave him his phone number and asked him to call in case he faced any problems. That very night, Sheikh faced a cruel assault from Galande and dialled Chavan’s number for help. The constable, who lives in Panvel, had reached home and gone to sleep by then. Galande had also ended the call swiftly and Chavan saw the missed call only in the morning.

“It might be a very small missed call; I did not even hear the ring tone,” he told this paper. Sheikh’s family members are also raising questions of more people being involved in the murder. His uncle, Munna, believes Galande alone cannot have killed his nephew. Police, meanwhile, are working on the case. Devendra Paul, police inspector, Govandi police station, said, “We are investigating the matter from all possible angles.”