Statement of crucial witness who rode in car with accused shows he was not in a position to drive, and sea link was not even on original route
Sumer Merchant (in black T-shirt) is taken to Bhoiwada court, on Monday. Pic/Atul Kamble
The Worli police have learnt that the driver of the car that killed jogger Rajlaxmi Ramkrishnan, 58, at Worli Sea Face on Sunday morning had chosen the route on which the mishap occurred entirely on a whim. The vehicle was headed to Shivaji Park. A 23-year-old woman, who was in the vehicle, claimed to the police that she had refused to sit in the car as Sumer Merchant, 23, was in no state to drive after partying but accompanied the accused as he insisted on dropping her home.
Merchant was produced in court on Wednesday and has been sent to judicial custody. The Worli cops have recorded the statements of most of the friends present at the party at Merchant’s Tardeo-based home on the evening of March 18. The bash went on till the early hours of March 19 though many friends started leaving around midnight. Around 6 am, the woman and a male friend of the accused decided to head home. Merchant allegedly told them to wait and offered to drop them off.
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Rajlaxmi Ramkrishnan, 58, the deceased (right) accused Sumer Merchant in a police van. Pic/Atul Kamble
According to the woman’s statement, she had opposed the idea from the beginning. “He was not in a state to drive. I told him not to come out, and to take rest as he hadn’t slept the whole night, but he insisted. He was drowsy, and another friend who was with us slept in the front seat as soon as we left Tardeo. I was literally made to sit inside the car,” she told the police.
Also Read: Mumbai: Jogger in Worli killed by speeding motorist
Interestingly, the road to Dadar was straight from Tardeo via Haji Ali, Worli and Prabhadevi but Sumer took a left turn in order to take the Bandra Worli Sea Link. “The accused wanted to go on a joyride and hence took the left turn. There was no other reason for him to take that stretch,” said a cop privy to the investigation.
Sumer Merchant (in black T-shirt) being taken to court, on Monday. Pic/Atul Kamble
The investigation has also revealed that Merchant and his friends had visited a hotel in south Mumbai before going to his Tardeo home around midnight, after which the partying continued. The police have also recorded Merchant’s male cousin’s statement and are securing CCTV footage from the hotel and checking the bills to get an idea about the group’s alcohol intake.
Advocate Hemant Ingle, who appeared as the intervener for Vijay Ramkrishnan, the deceased’s husband, said, “The role of the woman and her statements are very crucial. The investigators should find out why she left the accident spot hurriedly and didn’t even wait to see what happened.”
The vehicle that crashed into the victim
Meanwhile, as his police custody came to end, Merchant was produced in the holiday court on Wednesday afternoon. The magistrate observed the two-day police custody was enough for the cops to investigate the accident case and remanded the accused in judicial custody. Many family members and friends had come to court to see Merchant. The defence lawyer, Anjali Patil, has moved a bail application, which will be heard by the sessions court on Thursday afternoon.
Day Sumer Merchant threw a party at his house