OVER A month since the murder of artist Hema Upadhyay and her lawyer Harish Bhambhani, with main accused Vidyadhar Rajbhar still on the run, the Mumbai Police find that they have not made enough headway in investigations in the case. Hema’s estranged husband, well-known artist Chintan Upadhyay, remains in judicial custody, but investigators admit that without Rajbhar and some key pieces of the puzzle, the case is far from watertight.
On December 12, the bloated bodies of Upadhyay and Bhambhani were found in cardboard cartons wrapped in plastic sheets and dumped in an open drain in Kandivali. Five persons, including Chintan, were arrested in connection with the two murders. Besides Rajbhar, the police are also on the lookout for an alleged mediator whose identity has not been revealed, though investigators say his role was critical in planning the murder.
Claiming that Chintan was repeatedly changing his version of events running up to the discovery of the bodies, and alleging that he was not cooperating with the probe, the Mumbai Police had roped in Dinesh Kadam, key investigator in the Sheena Bora murder case, to question the artist.
But admittedly, finding Rajbhar is key to the Kandivali police’s case. The fabrication artist’s last location is believed to have been traced to a renowned temple near the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu border.
The police have also been keeping a tab on any artist Vidyadhar may approach for employment or other help when he runs out of money. He has, however, managed to evade capture for a month now.
The police believe that since Rajbhar was in severe debt, he had accepted an offer to commit the crime for Rs 10 lakh.
After the murder, Rajbhar left Mumbai with a co-accused Shivkumar but parted ways at Itrarsi in Madhya Pradesh. Shivkumar was later apprehended by the Uttar Pradesh Police.
Though several teams were fanned out across the country, including at Rajbhar’s hometown Varanasi, the police have not been able to trace him.
Meanwhile, a Borivali magistrate’s court last week rejected an application filed by the Mumbai Police seeking a narco-analysis test on Chintan “to obtain further leads in the case”.
Also, forensic reports in the double murder case remain pending. Several items, including rags dipped allegedly in chloroform and stuffed in the mouths of the deceased, hair and nail samples of the victims and accused were all sent for a forensic analysis to the state-run facility in Kalina.
Investigators say the call data records of Rajbhar and Hema on the days leading to the murder will act as evidence to prove their case that she was lured to his Kandivali studio on the pretext of being given a video clip.