Even with all the answers in its hands, the Mumbai Police are having a hard time closing the file on the death of a drug addict in Andheri. With pending cases often attracting criticism, it is the search for an elusive witness that is keeping the police from classifying the death as natural.
For over a month now, the police in Andheri East have been on the lookout for a bearded man in a white shirt who was the last person to see Mohammad Ayub Wazir Ahmad alive. A native of Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir, Ahmad, a 35-year-old former watchman, was found dead on a heap of paver blocks behind a car in a lane leading off the Andheri-Sahar Road on June 4.
Locals spotted the half naked Ahmad lying motionless on the road and called the police. A postmortem at Cooper Hospital concluded that Ahmad had died of internal bleeding and the only injuries were a few broken ribs. The police filed a case of rash driving and death by negligence and booked unidentified individuals for injuring Ahmad and leaving him on the road.
Initially, Inspector Balasaheb Salunke was surprised to find Ahmad dead just a few hours after he had been tended to by patrolling policemen the previous night. “Beat constables had spotted Ahmad lying on the side of the road, passed out. It was obvious he had consumed a large quantity of drugs. The constables sprinkled water on his face and Ahmad woke up and said he could move. So the constables left,” Salunke said.
Ahmad, however, did not move away, and instead flipped over in his sleep, eventually coming to rest in the centre of the narrow road. The hours were caught in the CCTV camera mounted just a few feet away and the police are now investigating the footage.
“When I first saw the footage, I couldn’t believe the way Ahmad was twisting and turning in his sleep, rolling several feet at once. But later, we spoke to some of his friends in Sahar village and they confirmed it as his behaviour,” Salunke said.
The road that Ahmad was asleep on can only be approached by an almost 90-degree right turn, forcing vehicles to crawl while negotiating it. At 4.08 am, the road was lit up by the headlights of a Toyota Innova car that had not yet entered the frame. According to Salunke, the shadows of two men fell upon Ahmad, both of whom wondered what to do next. A bearded man in a white shirt is then seen lifting the sleeping Ahmad by the shoulders and tossing him to the side of the road. The CCTV footage shows the man join his friend in the car and drive off.
For the next three hours, Ahmad lay beside another parked car, making sudden jerking rolls every half an hour. With dawn approaching, several passers-by moved past, paying little attention to him until Ahmad rises to his feet at 7.18 am. He holds the car for support, but bangs into it and falls down and out of the camera’s frame. “He fell onto a pile of paver blocks and broke his ribs. That must have led to the internal bleeding and his death since he was discovered only two hours later,” said Salunke.
Initial inquires pointed to no individual with a score to settle with Ahmad and the police have ruled out murder. “He had nothing that anyone would want to steal,” Salunke said.
Yet the search for the missing motorist has led nowhere. “We have shown his face to many locals but it is too dark to make him out clearly. The licence number of the car is also not visible. There are just too many grey Innovas to look for,” he added.
“We have a good theory about how Ahmad died, but unless we find the motorist, we cannot dismiss other possibilities,” said Salunke.