While unravelling the mystery behind a brutal murder, Palwal police found a plot involving three live bombs, a love triangle spanning two decades, multiple criminal cases and a woman’s explosive plan to win back the man who left her.
Exactly a week ago, at the Crime Investigation Agency’s (CIA’s) office in Haryana’s Hodal, a police team from Palwal district was questioning two suspects about the murder of a 65-year-old man, Babu Lal. When the two suspects — Aarti and Pradeep — finally broke down and revealed what they had done, their interrogators were horrified.
The duo told police that not only had they killed Babu Lal a few days earlier, they had also hidden three hand-made bombs inside Aarti’s friend’s house in Shamshabad Colony. The intended target of the bombs was Aarti’s ex-boyfriend Rakesh, they told police.
Even as the bomb disposal squad defused the bombs, police grappled with several questions — how did the two accused assemble the bombs, how did they procure the material, why had they killed Babu Lal and why were they targeting Rakesh? Police soon realised that the answers to these queries could be found in a love triangle, which had unfolded over the last 18 years, and Aarti’s twisted plan to win back the affections of her former partner, which had gone spectacularly wrong.
The three protagonists who are part of the complicated web of relationships and conspiracies are Pradeep (40), an alleged gangster, Rakesh (36), auto-rickshaw driver, and Aarti (36).
How they met
It all began in 1998, when 18-year-old Aarti, the daughter of a doctor in Palwal’s Badauli village, married Kanhaiya Lal, an auto-rickshaw driver from Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras. Aarti, the eldest of three siblings, had studied upto Class X in a government school in the district, before getting married and leaving for Hathras.
Pradeep, the son of a Block Development Officer, lived in the same neighbourhood in Hathras as Aarti and her husband. Married and a father of three children, Pradeep ran a PCO booth.
“Over the years, the two struck up a close friendship, which soon turned into an extra-marital affair… By 2003, both Aarti and Pradeep left their respective spouses and ran off to Noida together,” said Sub-Inspector Abbas Khan, in-charge of the CIA, Hodal.
They also took Aarti’s two children, who were then one and three years old, with them
According to police, 2003 marked a turning point in Pradeep’s life in more ways than one. “That year, he began appearing in police records. In early 2003, he, along with some accomplices, stole eight to 10 computers from a school in Hathras. After that, he became a habitual offender,” said Khan.
In the 13 years following that, as many as 16 cases have been registered against Pradeep, 15 of them in various parts of Uttar Pradesh. A case of murder was registered against him in Palwal district last week
However, Pradeep has been convicted and sentenced in connection with only one case until now. He was found guilty of murdering a resident of Hathras in 2009 and sentenced to life imprisonment. After being incarcerated for five years in Ghaziabad’s Dasna Jail, he appealed against the sentence in 2015 and has been out on bail since.
“The crime for which he is out on bail was also his first murder, which he committed in 2009. Aarti was also accused of the crime, but she was acquitted in the case,” said Rahul Sharma, superintendent of police, Palwal.
They were accused of killing Kamal, a resident of Hathras, who had allegedly killed Pradeep’s nephew. The duo had allegedly shot him dead to avenge Pradeep’s nephew’s murder, said the officer.
After Pradeep was sentenced to a life term and sent to prison in 2010, Aarti moved back to Palwal with her two children. Soon, she met Rakesh, a resident of Lalgarh village. They got involved in a relationship, despite the fact that Rakesh was married and had three children, said police.
“He had no idea about her past. He only knew her as a woman who had been abandoned by her husband, and needed support,” said Head Constable Rajesh Kumar of CIA, Hodal.
By the end of 2010, Rakesh’s wife and children had moved out of his home, and Aarti had moved in with him. Aarti sent her two children to live with their father, Kanhaiya Lal, who had moved to Agra.
“The two lived in Lalgarh for some time, but eventually moved to Noida, where they set up a few food stalls…They lived together for six years until Rakesh, at the insistence of a distant relative, left Aarti earlier this year. He went back to his estranged wife and children,” said Kumar.
How the plan was made
The distant relative who convinced Rakesh to go back to his family was Babu Lal, a resident of Palwal’s Gulawad village. He was found dead on the outskirts of the village on October 4. According to police, he was killed by Aarti and Pradeep, as the former held him responsible for the end of her relationship.
Five days later, the duo was arrested for his murder, and confessed to the crime during questioning, said police. Aarti had approached Lal to find out where Rakesh and his family were, added police officials.
“Lal refused to tell Aarti anything, because he thought she would hound him and not leave him alone,” said SI Khan.
Aarti allegedly got in touch with her ex-boyfriend, Pradeep, who was out on bail. She and Pradeep concocted the plan to bomb Rakesh’s residence, said police. However, they added that Aarti wanted the attack to be a warning for her ex-boyfriend who, she hoped, would get scared about the safety of his family and come back to her.
Pradeep, on the other hand, allegedly decided to kill Rakesh, but kept his plan a secret from Aarti. “Pradeep’s actual target was Rakesh. The focus shifted to Lal because they were unable to find Rakesh,” said Head Constable Rajesh Kumar.
According to Kumar, the duo managed to assemble three bombs using firecracker powder, nails, stones, and glass.
“Pradeep told Aarti that they would throw the bombs inside Rakesh’s house, and the small explosion would scare him into returning to her. But he actually intended to make the bombs powerful enough to kill Rakesh who, he believed, had taken Aarti away from him,” said Kumar.
According to police, the father of one of Pradeep’s friends in Hathras had a licence to manufacture firecrackers. Pradeep had spent a lot of time observing his friend’s father at work, and had picked up a few tricks, said police. “His friend died in an accident some years ago, and his friend’s father died recently. Some ingredients for making crackers were lying around the house. Pradeep bought these from the friend’s mother and assembled the bombs… She had no idea why he was buying the ingredients,” said Kumar.
The duo had planned to carry out the attack over a fortnight ago, but could not do so, said police. “They had put together desi bombs, which explode on impact with any surface. They had planned to purchase a stolen motorcycle, which they would have used to make a quick getaway after hurling the bombs inside Rakesh’s residence,” said Kumar.
But their plan was thwarted as Aarti and Pradeep could neither find where Rakesh was, nor could they find a stolen motorcycle, said police.
“They decided to put that plan on hold and instead shifted their focus to Babu Lal,” said Kumar.
The duo allegedly kept the bombs at the residence of Mukesh, an acquaintance of Aarti’s, who lived in Shamshabad Colony. Mukesh had no idea that there were explosives inside the bag Aarti had given him, said police.
According to police, Aarti met Lal on the outskirts of Gulawad village at 8 pm on October 3. While Lal was accompanied by his neighbour, Dharam Pal, Aarti allegedly took Pradeep with her. However, she introduced him as “a deaf and dumb acquaintance who will not understand anything”, said police.
“Before arriving at the meeting place, Pradeep and Aarti had already planned to murder Lal. They took a drink laced with sleeping pills… they had also bought a paper-cutter,” said SI Abbas Khan.
Both Lal and Pal fell unconscious after having the drink, said police, adding that they were tied up and gagged by Aarti and Pradeep.
“They murdered Lal by slitting his throat, inflicting an injury that was three inches deep… Aarti wanted to kill Dharam Pal as well, but Pradeep suggested they let him live so they could pin the murder on him,” said Head Constable Rajesh Kumar.
How it all ended
Their plan flopped when Pal’s account of the crime led police straight to Aarti.
“Pal told us that Aarti and an accomplice of hers were behind the murder. We looked at the data on our mobile dump and found only two mobile numbers, which didn’t belong to any of the residents, in the area at the time. One of the phones belonged to Aarti. We later found out that the other number was Pradeep’s,” said Kumar.
Palwal Police zeroed in on the two suspects and started conducting raids on the houses of Aarti’s family members and friends. She was found, and arrested, from her sister’s house in Kosi. She told police about Pradeep’s involvement in the murder and revealed that he was hiding at a location near Dadri.
“We made her call Pradeep and set up a meeting in Noida. We arrested him while he was on his way to the designated meeting place,” said Head Constable Kumar.
Over a week after their arrests, Aarti and Pradeep are both behind bars, while Rakesh, their intended target, has moved to Hodal with his wife and children. He could not be reached for comment.
Her plan to win back Rakesh may have failed, but Aarti’s steadfast love for her ex-boyfriend has left Palwal police scratching their heads in disbelief.
“We have questioned her several times… every single time, we are surprised by the intensity of her feelings for Rakesh,” said a police official.