'Napkins were soaked in chemical in advance to smother Hema, Harish'
According to sources in the Crime Branch, the chemical was probably pesticide, which the main accused could have easily accessed from his relative’s pest control business
Four days after the mutilated bodies of artist Hema Upadhyay and her lawyer Harish Bhambhani were found in a ditch in Kandivli, the police are yet to nab the main accused who, they said, holds the key to the case.
Tempo driver Vijay Rajbhar being escorted to court from the Kandivli police station yesterday
In the meantime, they have found further reason to believe that the crime had been planned in advance, as the accused had easy access to chemicals he might have used to smother the victims.
Tempo driver wife Saroj and her sister wait
“It looks like a pre-planned murder; the main accused had kept two handkerchiefs soaked in the chemical in advance,” said a Crime Branch official. The medical and forensic reports are still awaited, but police suspicions grow stronger that the victims were smothered to death with a chemical.
The tempo that was used to dump the bodies was recovered from Kandivli yesterday. Pics/Nimesh Dave
They suspect that this chemical was either chloroform or pesticide, which Vidyadhar Rajbhar aka Gotu would have had easy access to since his brother-in-law runs a pest control service and the chemical was stored in Gotu’s Charkop home.
Read Story: Artist fraternity stands by Chintan
Sources added that two napkins were soaked in the chemical; one was kept in co-accused Sadhu’s pocket, the other in the pocket of Azad, another worker detained by the police. Azad attacked Hema as Gotu held her from behind, while two other workers, Sadhu and Pradeep, attacked the lawyer.
Hema died soon after the chemical-laced napkin was pressed onto her face, and Sadhu had even checked her pulse to confirm this. However, the lawyer revived in some time and had to be smothered again, said officials.
Confessed to wife too?
In addition, sources from the Crime Branch have also revealed that the day Gotu fled the city, he called his wife and confessed to the murder. Earlier on, he had told her he was going to his native place as his mother was ill.
According to officials, his wife even consulted a lawyer at his behest, to ask whether there was a chance for mercy if he turned himself in. By this point, however, the media scrutiny on the case had scared Gotu, and he decided to stay in hiding.
This is the second mention of a confession – just yesterday, mid-day had run a front-page report about a testimony from Gotu’s neighbour, who claimed that Gotu had confessed to killing Hema after she slapped him (‘Debt-ridden killer confessed to lender day after murder’).
The tempo used to dump the bodies was recovered on Wednesday from Link Road in Kandivli West, near Lalji Pada. They have also located the lawyer’s car, in which the victims had driven to the warehouse. The tempo driver, Vijay Rajbhar, had already been arrested on the suspicion that he had known about the murders.
When Vijay heard that the bodies were found in the ditch, packed in cardboard and cellophane wrapping, he had approached the police saying he had dumped the packages there, not knowing that they held corpses. He had told the police that on December 11, he had work somewhere else, but Gotu had called him to the warehouse saying an art consignment had to be delivered.
He also told the cops that he was made to stand outside a door until they called him inside and told him the packages were ready. Once they had been loaded on his truck, he was told they were simply waste material and had to be dumped. However, the police are not convinced that Vijay could have stood outside the room as Hema and Harish were murdered inside, not realising what had happened.
Where is Gotu?
The last recorded location of the main accused – Vidyadhar Rajbhar or Gotu, the owner of the art warehouse where the double murder took place – was in Madhya Pradesh. That was the last location pinged from his cell phone, after which it was switched off.
His alleged accomplice Shivkumar Rajbhar, also known as Sadhu, who was arrested in Varanasi, has now been remanded to police custody until December 22. Cops will try and get information from him about Gotu’s whereabouts. Three other suspects — Azad, Pradeep and Vijay — have been remanded in police custody till Saturday.
Hema’s brother points finger at Chintan
Yesterday, as Hema’s brother Manish Hirani exited the Kandivli police station, he told this paper, “I told the police that Hema and her husband Chintan were in the middle of several financial disputes.
It’s possible he is responsible for the murder.” However, according to sources and Chintan’s statement to the police, the disputes had been resolved amicably.
Sign up for all the latest news, top galleries and trending videos from Mid-day.comSubscribe