Four months after he was accused of murdering artist Hema Upadhyay and her lawyer Harish Bhambhani, Vidyadhar Rajbhar is continuing to evade the city police. Officers said they keep hearing different accounts about him — he has changed his appearance, is visiting temples in different cities, has left the country. Also, Rajbhar is not making the mistakes people on the run usually do.
“Most criminals are attached to a family member, some friend, and try to contact them. But it is very difficult to find a man who has left his family to fend for itself,” said a senior Mumbai Police officer. Rajbhar, the police say, has completely avoided contacting his young wife and infant child to avoid being tracked down.
Rajbhar was booked late last year for allegedly killing Upadhyay and Bhambhani in his workshop in a slum in Kandivli.
Initially, while he switched cell phones, the police managed to trace his movements out of Mumbai, to Bhusawal and finally to Itarsi in Madhya Pradesh, from where he is alleged to have made a phone call to his mother.
Since then, officers said, Rajbhar has been very cautious in using phones and the police believe is regularly discarding handsets and SIM cards. The chase has taken scores of officers from the Kandivli police station and the Mumbai police Crime Branch to Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh, Chennai and Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu and to West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. According to a member of the investigating team, Rajbhar was last traced to Siliguri on February 17.
In Tirupati, two sets of investigating teams ended up questioning the owner of a public phone booth, just a few minutes apart from each other. A call was traced from Chennai to an uncle in Surat, but by the time the police reached the location, Rajbhar had left. A visit to Coimbatore was undertaken after Hema’s artist friends told the police Rajbhar may have sought work in the burgeoning art industry there. The police returned after an unsuccessful 20 days there.
Rajbhar, who worked extensively with Hema, allegedly lured her to his workshop in Laljipada by telling her he had information she could use in her ongoing divorce battle with husband Chintan Upadhyay. Call logs of Rajbhar’s phone shows that he had been in constant touch with Hema and had exchanged phone calls with Chintan a few days before the murders. Chintan was placed under arrest by the police on December 22 on charges of orchestrating the murders after being interrogated for several days. The apprehension among the police now is that Rajbhar may have slipped into Nepal or Bangladesh. “He’s a native of Uttar Pradesh and would know the routes into Nepal,” said one officer, adding that he could have bribed his way into Bangladesh, seeking work as a sculptor.