This parrot is no Hercule, after all. He’s only Hira — Hero Hiralal maybe, but certainly no Poirot.
He has been celebrated in the international media — who took their cue from some imaginative reporting in India — for solving the “blind” murder of his mistress in Agra earlier this week. Turns out unfortunately, that the facts of the case are a lot more mundane.
First, the story.
Vijay Sharma, the editor of Hindi daily Swaraj Times, returned home from a wedding with his children late at night on February 20 to find his wife Neelam and the family’s pet dog Tuffy stabbed to death, the house ransacked, and jewellery and cash missing. Their other pet, a parrot, was found alive in his cage, covered with a bedsheet.
On February 26, sections of the media reported that the crime had been solved. And the hero, the reports said, was an unlikely Poirot — the parrot in the cage, who was, by an incredible coincidence, called Hercule.
This detective would apparently start flapping his wings and screeching hysterically whenever Sharma’s nephew Ashutosh was mentioned — a reaction that led the police to investigate Ashutosh, and ultimately establish that he had, along with an accomplice, killed his aunt and the dog.
Now, the facts.
Sharma told police that his wife had not been keeping well, and he had locked her in so she wouldn’t have to get up when he returned at night. He also said she was likely to have thrown the key down from the terrace only to someone she knew well. Once investigators knew the killers had had a friendly entry into the home, they began looking at the location of the cellphones of the family’s friends and relatives at the time.
“It was a long and ardous process, and we managed to nab the accused only on the 25th — four days after the crime,” Agra SSP Shalabh Mathur said. Police claim they got to Ashutosh Goswami, who is Sharma’s sister’s son, on their own, while Sharma says the family told police to check on Ashutosh after they noticed he was behaving “suspiciously”.
“Ashutosh came the day after the murder and attended the funeral, but we noticed he would not go near her room. He had an injury on his hand that looked like a bite, and every time we asked him how he had got it, he would give different answers… sometimes he said a cow had bitten him, sometimes he said he had fallen off his bike,” Sharma told The Indian Express.
Police said Ashutosh was probably bitten by Tuffy the dog. “He had also stolen the victim’s mobile phone, which he forgot to switch off immediately, so we traced its location,” Mathur said. Police raided his home, and retrieved the kitchen knife he is suspected to have used in the crime, the stolen jewellery and the battery of Neelam’s mobile phone.
So where does Hira come in?
According to Sharma, his daughters, along with a local reporter, decided to “confirm” the police’s findings with the parrot. “My mother was very attached to Hira. He has been with us for over two decades. We took the names of all the people in the house in front of him, including my brother, the milkman, and my cousin Ashutosh. Hira started squawking when we took Ashutosh’s name,” Pallavi, one of Sharma’s daughters, said.
According to Sharma, the parrot’s contribution to the case was limited to only “reacting excitedly” to Ashutosh’s name. Pallavi, however, insisted that Hira “nodded when I took Ashu’s name”.
“We have lived with him so long… We know his language, my father does not, and he did nod at Ashu’s name,” she said stoutly.
What father and daughter agree on is that the family never communicated Hira’s “clues” to the police. “It was just a confirmation for us, nothing else. How can my Hira become a detective?” Sharma said. The police, he said, had done “the best work I have seen in my 40 years as a journalist”.
Sharma, however, also said that at the police press conference to announce the cracking of the case, he had announced that he started to believe the police’s theory only after Hira reacted to Ashutosh’s name. “I am a journalist, so I know reporters need masala. In this case my Hira became the masala… it spread like wildfire,” Sharma said.
And how does Hira feel about it all?
On Friday evening, the international celebrity sat inside his cage, peacefully cracking a few nuts. His family, eager to demonstrate his detective skills, took several names before him. Hira neither nodded nor reacted excitedly. When The Indian Express approached him for a comment, he ruffled his feathers and cracked some more nuts.