Santoshee Gulabkali Mishra
Two bottles of beer and one of whisky helped the Mumbai Police Crime Branch crack the murder of an octroi agent. The body of Lovkesh Upadhayay (27) was found in the forest area near the Dahisar check post on April 10, 2013. The three bottles of liquor were found next to the body.
Going by the number of bottles, the police suspected that there were at least two killers.
“Upadhyay was killed brutally. His face had been smashed with a stone with the intention of disfiguring his face. The killers did not want his identity known,” said Vijay Kandalgonkar, assistant inspector, crime branch (Unit XII).
The deceased’s clothes, however, helped police to identify him. The toll-check agent was known to be rather flamboyant. Many at the toll booth recalled his penchant for gold; saying, he wore “two gold chains, bracelets and several gold rings on his fingers”.
However the disfigured body didn’t have any jewellery on it. The motive almost established, police now had to look for the culprits. The police started by building a profile of the deceased. Those who knew him told the police that he had a “practical” approach to life, taking each day as it came.
He was known to be in the habit of spending a portion of his day’s earnings on buying a fixed quota of liquor and later sitting on a low wall near the toll booth and speaking to his wife on the phone, who lived in his native village.
The police stations of surrounding jurisdiction were contacted, but none of their records showed any background on Upadhyay.
With Upadhyay’s phone missing, the police now had only the three bottles of liquor as their clues. A fresh enquiry at bars around the toll-check did not yield any leads. Police finally sent the labels found on the bottles to the liquor distributors. One of them confirmed that the bottles were from the batches that he sold, said police. “The distributor helped in providing the details of the batch numbers of bottles of beer and whisky, which he had supplied to a wine shop in Dahisar. We reached the shop and made inquiries with him, hoping to find clues about who had bought them. The shopkeeper pointed to a CCTV camera mounted over the entrance to the store,” recalled Kandalgonkar.
Inquiries at the toll booth had already established that liquor was Upadhyay’s only weakness. Officers with the Crime Branch’s Unit XII then started scanning the footage recorded by the camera on the April 9, the day before Upadhyay’s body was found.
Hours of footage showed customers buying liquor. While the officers didn’t know who to look for, they kept their eyes on the bottles that the customers were buying. There were many who had picked two bottles of beer and one bottle of whiskey; in the same combination of bottles that was found next to the victim’s body. Somewhere in the middle of the evening, the footage showed a 19-year-old boy buying the two bottles of beer and a bottle of whiskey.
“We had seen the boy at the vehicle toll-check and had questioned him earlier, but didn’t have much to suspect him at the time. Once we saw him in the footage, we knew we had our suspect,” said Kandalgonkar, adding, “We called him in for questioning again. We showed him the footage, after which he spilled the beans.”
The suspect, Mohan Mishra (19), was arrested and during further interrogation, he revealed the identity of his accomplice, a relative named Anshu Mishra.
Mohan told the police that his sister was getting married and that his family was falling short of Rs 1 lakh to meet the expenses for the wedding. He hatched the plan to kill and rob Upadhyay, who he always saw wearing gold jewellery, and convinced Anshu to help him, telling him that it was for a “greater cause”.
On the day of the crime, Mohan bought Updhyay’s preferred brand of beer from the wine shop in Dahisar. Mohan and Anshu invited Upadhyay for a drink and seeing his favourite beer, Upadhyay readily followed the duo into the forest. After bashing his head in, the duo took all his jewellery and destroyed his cellphone.
Mohan and Anshu are in judicial custody and are lodged at Thane Central Jail.