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Calls and clips in crime of passion

How Kanpur cops used mobile and CCTV records to arrest businessman and girlfriend for wife’s murder.

Piyush Shyam Dashani  (in green), His wife Jyoti (R). Source: Vishal Srivastava. Piyush Shyam Dashani (in green), His wife Jyoti (R). Source: Vishal Srivastava.

From The moment Piyush Shyam Dashani reported the “kidnapping” of his wife Jyoti, the Kanpur police treated him with suspicion. For one thing, he said she had been kidnapped at 11.32 pm on July 27 but reported it an hour later. Again, he had no injuries though he reported having been in a scuffle.

Investigations that night, during which Jyoti was found stabbed to death in Piyush’s car, and on subsequent days, when police scanned CCTV footage from a restaurant and call records, threw up inconsistencies in Piyush’s statements and unearthed a plot that involved hired, nonprofessional killers and a love affair that began before his marriage and continued after it.

Piyush, 29, son of Om Prakash Shyam Dashani whose businesses include a franchise for Parle G biscuits, was arrested last week along with his girlfriend Manisha Makhija and four men allegedly hired to kill Jyoti.

Piyush, who was looking after two factories, and Manisha, daughter of a gutkha manufacturer, are next-door neighbours at Pandu Nagar but their kundalis apparently didn’t match. In November 2012, Piyush married Jyoti, 27, daughter of a Jabalpur-based businessman dealing in plastics, but continued to see Manisha, police said.

Of the four alleged killers, Avadesh Chaturvedi once worked as a driver in Manisha’s home and was living half a kilometre away, at Ram Charan ki Madiya. So were the other three — sweetshop workers Ashish Kashyap and Sonu Kashyap, and driver Renu Kanojia. Piyush allegedly hired them for Rs 50,000 and advanced them Rs 30,000 in two instalments.

DIG (Kanpur range) R K Chaturvedi said police have evidence against the accused men, besides their confessions. Senior SP (Kanpur) K S Emmanuel said Manisha was aware of the plot.

The car

By Piyush’s account at Swaroop Nagar police station, he and Jyoti were driving home after dinner at Verandah restaurant when they were waylaid by eight men on four motorcycles — “a few of them had long beards and were wearing caps” — who dragged him out and drove off with Jyoti in the car.

Jyoti’s mobile remained switched on, still inside the car. With the help of the state STF, city police traced the signals to Panki, about 10 km from the site of the alleged abduction. The Honda Accord provided the police with the first of Piyush’s inconsistencies. He had said the attackers had banged against the car, forcing him to stop, but the police found it without damage.

Jyoti lay dead in the back seat, having been stabbed 14 times, as the postmortem would later find. Her jewellery — ear-tops and three rings — was gone. Inside the car were three knives, not bloodstained, while a fourth knife, the one with which she was actually stabbed, is yet to be traced.

The jewellery would be found after the arrests, hidden in a park nearby.

Call records

In May, Piyush had bought two SIM cards citing a fake address in Banda, police said. He used one of these to talk with Manisha, who used the other card.

The day of the murder, Piyush made eight calls using this SIM card to a number that the police traced to Avadesh. Sub-inspector Shiv Kumar Singh Rathore, the investigating officer and station officer at Swaroop Nagar, said they found Avadesh’s phone had been outside the restaurant that day, and also at the spot where the car was found. The police picked up Avadesh.

Also on July 27, call details showed, Piyush and a woman colleague exchanged over 120 messages. She was questioned but police failed to find anything against her.

Piyush had allegedly gone to Avadesh’s home on July 2 and offered the murder contract. Avadesh reportedly roped in his three neighbours.

Police said a first attempt was made on July 20. Piyush was to take Jyoti to the Ganga barrage where the others would kill her and throw the body into the river, police said, but Sonu and Renu were apparently held up by rain.

The eight calls Piyush made to Avadesh on July 27 were between 6 pm and 9:55 pm. At 9:56 pm, he called up Manisha. Just before leaving, police said, he handed over the phone to the guard at Manisha’s house. Manisha has reportedly told the police that she was meant to destroy the phone and the SIM cards. She destroyed the cards but has handed the phone to the police.

Piyush and Jyoti left home around 10 pm and reached the restaurant, around 5 km away in Rana Market, at 10:20. From then, he was under CCTV, providing police with vital footage.

The footage

Piyush looked agitated, ate little, and was constantly on his cellphone, exchanging messages and talking. He also had an argument with Jyoti. At 10:39 pm, he left Jyoti on her own and stepped out for 13 minutes, said inspector general (Kanpur range) Ashutosh Pandey. He walked down three floors, talking away on his usual cellphone — with Manisha, police would later find. He walked the road for some distance, falling out of the CCTV cameras’ range, and returned at 10:52 pm. During these 13 minutes, police said, he had met Avadesh, shown him the car, and told him he would be leaving in 25 minutes.

Avadesh and two of the others then went to a beer shop and drank, according to the police. They walked to Rawatpur, the rendezvous, where Ashish arrived on motorcycle.

CCTV footage, incidentally, also helped police trace the purchase of the four knives on July 22. Piyush had reportedly driven Renu and Avadesh to the shop but hadn’t stepped out.

The murder

At 11.25 pm, Piyush and Jyoti drove away from the restaurant. A kilometre ahead, Piyush saw the men, stopped and stepped out, police said. Avadesh allegedly took the wheel, while Sonu and Renu entered the back from either side and pinned Jyoti down. The four knives were already in the car, wrapped in a scarf, police said. Renu allegedly took one and stabbed Jyoti repeatedly, while Sonu held her by the legs.

During this time, police said, Piyush made a call to Jyoti, apparently to confirm what was going on.

Avinash allegedly drove to Panki, Ashish following on his motorcycle, and parked the car. Renu and Sonu then rode away on Ashish’s motorcycle; Avinash took a tempo. Besides the jewellery, police said, they also took the car keys, later recovered by police.

…And after

When this correspondent visited Piyush’s and Manisha’s homes, their families did not let him in. The families of the others accused deny any knowledge of the plot. “I don’t know how my brother got implicated,” said Renu’s elder brother Pappu.

A search of Jyoti’s room has unearthed two diaries; her parents have told police she also kept a third. These had entries about Piyush neglecting her and being always on the phone.

Incidentally, while Piyush was in police remand, TV cameras caught circle officer Rakesh Nayak consoling him and kissing him on the forehead. After the video went up on air, Nayak was suspended Monday.

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