Investigation into the blaze at a five-storey building in Old Delhi’s Anaj Mandi, which killed 43 people including five minors, has revealed that a minor fire broke out in one of the rooms on the ground floor around six months ago as well, but it was doused by locals as well as the fire department, police have said.
The ground floor is owned by key accused Mohammed Rehan’s brother, Mohammed Imran. On Wednesday, the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of the Crime Branch arrested Rehan’s brother-in-law, Mohammed Suhail, who had been “in hiding” since the incident. Police had earlier arrested the building’s owner, Rehan, and his manager Mohammed Furkan on Sunday, following the blaze. According to police, the owner had rented out about 15 rooms in the building to different people.
“Apart from Rehan, his brother Imran, who is absconding, also owned part of the property along with their brother-in-law Suhail. Rehan got the ground floor and first floor of the building, while Imran owned two rooms on the ground floor, both vacant. The second, third and fourth floors have 18 rooms, of which Rehan owns 10, and the other two men own four each,” a senior police officer said.
During questioning, Furkan told police that he worked as caretaker of the building and that around six months ago, a minor fire had broken out in one of the rooms that belonged to Imran. However, it was doused with the help of locals and the fire department. “Police are now sending a letter to the fire department, asking them to provide details of the incident that took place six months ago,” an officer said.
A Delhi Fire Services source said they are yet to received the letter from police. Another source said they are going through their records and are yet to come across the alleged incident.
The SIU Wednesday also called the executive engineer of the North MCD’s building department to measure the height of building, and found it was 17 metres. “Rehan is learnt to have told police that he illegally constructed two floors in 2008 with connivance of civic body officials and local police,” the officer said.
During questioning, Rehan told police that he was sleeping at home Sunday morning when he came to know about the incident. “After reaching the spot, he met Furkan and they tried to douse the fire. They also asked someone to run and inform fire officials at the nearby fire station. They were part of the initial rescue operation, but fled the spot later after they discovered that the death toll was mounting,” the officer said.
Meanwhile, a team of BSES officials and officers from the CBI’s forensic lab visited the spot. As reported by The Indian Express, the fire had broken out at one of the sub meters installed on the second floor.