Chandrabhan Sanap’s name first cropped in TCS techie Esther Anuhya’s murder case when a Kanjurmarg resident who sells liquor for a livelihood told the Government Railway Police (GRP) on February 14 that the unidentified suspect seen with the victim in CCTV footage from Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT) was known to her as ‘Chaukya’.
The woman, an informer, had often seen Sanap purchasing liquor, and led the GRP to his brother Suryabhan and his mother in Kanjurmarg. After getting Sanap’s address from his mother on February 14, a GRP team in plain clothes left for Nashik by road. They reached Makhmalabad in Nashik, only to find Sanap’s house locked.
Sanap, with his third wife and other women in the village, had left for Buldhana for a pilgrimage. The GRP team trailed him for 300 km till they nabbed him in Buldhana around 8 am on February 15. The police seized Sanap’s and his wife’s phone and sought their Call Data Records (CDR) to check his location on January 5, the day Esther was murdered.
The GRP then approached two witnesses, a railway AC coach attendant and a canteen boy from LTT, to identify Sanap as a suspect. However, since Sanap had grown a beard by then, both witnesses were unable to clearly identify him. The CDR report received by the Kurla GRP also showed that the two SIM cards were registered on January 9 and January 15, which further failed to establish Sanap’s involvement in the murder.
Unable to detain a suspect beyond 24 hours, as per law, the GRP released Sanap, but asked him to turn in at the police station whenever required. The GRP asked the mobile phone service provider to send another CDR report using the International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI) number of the two handsets, to ascertain Sanap’s whereabouts on January 5. GRP sources said their request for the CDRs was not met with urgency and the data which showed Sanap at LTT and Kanjurmarg on January 5 was sent to them only on February 28.
Kurla GRP, which continued to believe that Sanap was involved in the murder, even wrote to the investigating officer at Kanjurmarg police station, saying Sanap could be the suspect seen in the CCTV footage, and asking the local police to verify Sanap’s role in the case. However, there was no response to the letter, claimed GRP sources.
Asked whether Kanjurmarg police had received a letter from Kurla GRP, Assistant Commissioner of Police (Bhandup division) Sunil Shejwal said, “The investigation was being conducted by three different agencies. We will have to check (if any letter was received).” GRP officers claimed that on February 25, the crime branch asked Kurla GRP to send Sanap for enquiries. Sanap was in Bangalore at the time, they said.
On February 28, the second CDR report was sent to Kurla GRP, which showed Sanap’s location to be at LTT and Kanjurmarg on January 5. Senior GRP officers chose not to comment on the role of the railway police in solving the crime.