Mumbai double murder: Is Hema Upadhyay's suspected killer no more?
After all-India manhunt fails to net Vidyadhar Rajbhar, the prime suspect in the murders of Hema Upadhyay and Harish Bhambhani, police are now scrounging mortuaries of UP, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Maharashtra
Cops suspect Chintan plotted Hema Upadhyay’s murder
Ever since the 2015 double murder of artist Hema Upadhyay and her lawyer, the prime accused Vidyadhar Rajbhar alias Gotu has managed to cover up his tracks so perfectly, it’s like he’s ceased to exist. Indeed, after failing to find any trace of him in the land of the living, the police have now taken their search to mortuaries across India.
Hema’s lawyer Harish Bhambhani
As mid-day had highlighted in several reports since the murder of acclaimed Mumbai artist Hema Upadhyay and her lawyer Harish Bhambhani on December 11, 2015, Vidyadhar is crucial to the case not just because he is the prime accused, but because he is the missing link that can prove the murder and conspiracy charges against Hema’s estranged husband and fellow artist Chintan Upadhyay (‘Without Vidyadhar, cops have nothing on Chintan’, mid-day, December 28, 2015).
Currently, cops have limited evidence against Chintan, who has been accused of plotting the double murder and paying off Vidyadhar and his employees to carry out the grisly plan. One of these employees — co-accused Pradeep Rajbhar —made a confessional statement under Section 164 of the CrPC, admitting that Chintan was behind the murder. However, he later recanted, saying he was forced to testify. Chintan, on the other hand, claims he is innocent and was not in town during the murder. However, cops have caught hold of CCTV footage and call detail records (CDR) that shows he was in touch with prime accused Vidyadhar before the murder.
This wanted poster shows how Vidyadhar might have changed his look
The cops investigating the case strongly suspect that they might never get Vidyadhar to testify. For one, there has been no trace of him in nearly a year. The last anyone heard from him was on February 2, 2016, when he called one of his cousins in Surat. By then, the police had tracked him to Chennai and Assam with the help of his mobile number. But after the phone call, Vidyadhar discarded the SIM card and cops lost track of him again.
The police are baffled by how Vidyadhar seems to have simply fallen off the face of the earth since then. With the search reaching a dead end, Crime Branch officers now strongly suspect that they have just been looking for him in the wrong place.
“The way he has disconnected or disappeared is difficult to digest. He has not made a single attempt to contact anyone in Mumbai. All his documents, including his passport, have been lying at his Mumbai residence. We have been closely monitoring his family members and friends since he went absconding,” said an officer.
The Crime Branch has now started combing mortuaries across Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Chennai and Assam in search of Vidyadhar. Confirming this, Assistant Commissioner of Police (East region) Prasad Dharia said, “We have circulated photographs of Vidyadhar to all the mortuaries our officers had been to. They have been instructed to inform us in case they come across any body that matches his description. Our officers must have scanned more than 100 bodies till date, but still there is no clue.”
Vidyadhar did not turn up for his daughter’s first birthday either. At the time of the murder, his daughter was just four months old. Cops had anticipated that he might try to get in touch with the family on her first birthday on September 13, 2016, and they lid a trap for him as well, but it was all in vain.
Links to Chintan
>> CCTV footage of secret meeting between Vidyadhar and Chintan in Chembur days before the murder
>> Calls and messages between Vidyadhar and Chintan just before the murder
Wanted dead or alive
Vidyadhar remains a crucial link to the case and will be always wanted, said the police. “We have put up wanted posters for him at several railway stations in the country and also sent his pictures to several superintendents of police in the country, asking them to inform local police stations. We are hopeful we will find him,” said an officer.
No. of corpses scanned so far