The case that shook the nation
Almost a year since the veteran journalist was slain by contract killers allegedly employed by Chhota Rajan at the behest of scribe Jigna Vora, MiD DAY traces the twists and turns in the police investigations
Investigations into the murder case of MiD DAY journalist J Dey began just a few hours after his killing, when sleuths began combing the scene of crime in Powai for clues. In the days that followed the murder, they scoured Dey’s email account, his phone records, interrogated hundreds of acquaintances, eyewitnesses, informants and operators. They gathered CCTV footage from the store outside which Dey had been slain, and obtained sketches of suspects based on eyewitness accounts.
A fortnight later, they arrested seven men who were scattered across the country — all had been directly involved in the shooting. Senior Inspector Arun Chavan, who was in charge of the property cell at the time, acquired the initial clues for these busts. Chavan said, “Through our informer network, we were told that these men had gone missing after the shooting. After verifying if they were indeed absconding, we probed further and traced their location.”
Three accused were found hiding in Rameswaram, another two in Karnataka, and two more in Sion. The primary arrested accused — Rohit Thangappan alias Satish Kalia — hailed from Thiruvananthapuram. He was one of the men picked up from Rameswaram. Kalia allegedly used a .32 Czech-made revolver to fire the five bullets that felled Dey. Arun Dhake, another accused, piloted the bike, on which Kalia rode pillion. Four other arrested accused — Sachin Gaikwad, Nilesh Shelge alias Babloo, Mangesh Agawane and Abhijeet Shinde — are natives of Maharashtra.
The seventh arrested accused was Anil Waghmode, whose contribution to the operation was to recce all the spots that Dey frequented, including areas near his home in Ghatkopar, and MiD DAY’s Parel office. Interrogating them, cops picked up some more names — underworld don Chhota Rajan’s aide Paulson Joseph had supplied the group with international SIM cards, from which Rajan provided them instructions. He had also provided them with finances for the killing. It was also learnt that Rajan had provided his contract killers Dey’s photographs and licence plate number via Skype, after obtaining them from senior journalist and another accused in the murder case, Jigna Vora.
The ninth link yielded by interrogations was that of Deepak Sisodiya, a Nainital-based weapons supplier. The next name to crop up was of builder-bookie Vinod Asrani alias Vinod Chembur, another of Rajan’s aides, who had allegedly physically identified Dey for Kalia, at the Uma beer bar in Chembur, not long before the murder.
Days after the shooting, Rajan gave a handful of interviews to various news channels, claiming that he regretted having masterminded Dey’s killing. He named Vora as his ‘instigator,’ and alleged that she had provided Dey’s licence plate number and photographs to Rajan. Later, the Crime Branch, acting on information received from Chembur unit’s senior inspector Shripad Kale, tapped the phone of Asrani’s relative Manoj. In a recorded conversation, Rajan was heard lamenting his role in the murder of Dey, and blaming Vora for instigating him.
Realising that the police were closing in on her, Vora began systematically destroying evidence, getting rid of her mobile phones from which she had called Rajan numerous times. Vora also planted a story about UK-based Iqbal Mirchi’s possible involvement in Dey’s murder, allegedly to mislead investigators. On November 25, Vora was arrested under various sections of IPC including murder, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence, besides stringent provisions of MCOCA and the Arms Act. Crime Branch sources said Vora had spoken to Rajan over phone quite a few times before the crime.
In a bid to pay homage to slain MiD DAY journalist J Dey on his first death anniversary, The Horizon, a non-government organisation, along with some eminent Powai residents, will organise a candlelight vigil in Hiranandani Gardens on June 11. The event will be held between 6-8 pm at the very spot where Dey was shot dead by four armed assailants.
June 6-8: The shooters recce different locations in the city frequented by Dey
June 7: Vinod Asrani identifies Dey for Satish Kalia at the Uma beer bar. Meanwhile, Paulson Joseph meets Jigna Vora and informs her of Rajan’s plans
June 9: Jigna Vora leaves Mumbai and heads to Sikkim for a family holiday.
June 11: Dey is shot five times at Hiranandani.