A domestic help who stole cash and valuables worth more than Rs 50 lakh from his employer’s house believed that he had committed the ‘perfect’ crime. He had assumed a false name and used an accent to give the impression that he was from Nepal and had also taken care never to use his cellphone for the short while that he worked for the household.
However, he made the mistake of making a call from a fellow domestic help’s phone and this proved to be his undoing, leading to his arrest within three days of the theft.
In March 2010, builder Gopal Gorwani, who stays with his family at President Apartments in Bandra, employed a servant who identified himself as Deepak Singh. The Gorwanis’ previous help had quit without prior notice and the family needed a replacement urgently. Singh was referred to them and the family employed him readily. Over the next ten-twelve days, Singh made himself indispensable to the family.
On April 24, the entire Gorwani family went to the Wankhede stadium in Churchgate to watch an IPL match live, leaving Singh alone in the house. They returned around 1 am the next morning to find that Singh was missing and the cupboard in the bedroom was open. Cash and jewellery worth Rs 54.18 lakh were missing. The Gorwanis began searching in the area and a security guard told them that he had seen Singh leave with a suitcase. The Gorwanis informed Khar police the next day.
“We were not even sure if Deepak Singh was the suspect’s real name. The Gorwanis told us that his accent suggested that he was from Nepal. However, what kept nagging at our minds was that the suspect did not have a cell phone. We kept asking everyone in the family if he had ever been seen using a phone, and another domestic help working for the family told us he had used her cellphone once around a month before the crime,” recalled assistant police inspector Nitin Patil.
The police then obtained the help’s Call Data Records (CDRs) and checked the calls that she made and received during a five-day period a month before the theft was committed. The five-day margin was taken as she did not remember the exact day of the call. The police finally zeroed in on a cellphone number which the help said was unknown to her. The police called the number and the call was answered by a well-educated woman staying in a posh complex in Oshiwara.
Police learned that Singh’s mother was employed with the woman as a domestic help and that Singh had called her once as he wanted to speak to his mother.
Singh’s mother told police the cops that Singh had a brother-in-law named Tapan Quila, who worked as a driver in Mumbai. Police picked up Quila the next day. They also obtained his CDRs. The police noticed that over the past 24 hours, Quila had exchanged calls with a particular number. However, sustained questioning of Quila yielded no results.
The police decided to let Quila go. He was told to come back to the police station the next day. As soon as Quila left, the police spoke to his cellular service provider and arranged for his CDRs of the following night to be sent to them. The CDRs showed that Quila had made a call to the same number with which he had been exchanging calls after he left Khar police station.
“When Quila showed up the next day, we took him to the innermost section of the detection room at the police station. Once there, five to six of us, surrounded him .We kept shouting stuff like we knew he had lied to us. It took five minutes of this act for Quila to crack,” said an officer.
Quila told the police that Singh’s real name was Kartik Das, and that he was hiding in a slum on Gazdarban Road in Santacruz. Quila said Das planned to leave the city by train within a few hours. Das was picked up from the slum. However, the case still had one last surprise for the police.
“When Das led us to where he had hidden the stolen booty, we could hardly believe our eyes. The suitcase containing the valuables was placed in a corner of an unoccupied room in the slum which did not have a door. Children would play in the room all day and walk around it, thinking it was just one of the many items discarded in the room. Das had literally hidden the loot in plain sight,” Patil said.