Updated: December 16, 2015 4:12:39 am
THE MUMBAI Police arrested three more persons Tuesday in connection with the murder of artist Hema Upadhyay and her lawyer Harish Bhambhani.
On Monday, the police had arrested Shivkumar alias Sadhu Rajbhar in a joint operation with the UP Special Task Force from his village in Varanasi.
The three accused arrested Tuesday are Vijay Rajbhar, Pradeep Rajbhar and Azad Rajbhar. While Pradeep and Azad worked at the studio of absconding accused Vidyadhar Rajbhar, Vijay drove a tempo for a living. The Borivali Metropolitan Magistrate Court remanded the three in police custody until December 19.
According to the police, Vidyadhar used to make the material required by Upadhyay for her work. The artist allegedly owed him Rs 5 lakh.
The bodies of Upadhyay and Bhambhani were found in two cardboard cartons wrapped in plastic sheets and dumped in
a drain in Kandivali on December 12. The interrogation of Shivkumar has revealed that his employer Vidyadhar Rajbhar was heavily in debt and was desperate for money as his creditors would turn up at his residence frequently and abuse him for failing to pay up.
“In order to start his metal fabrication business, Vidhydhar had taken a loan of Rs 5 lakh from some relatives and promised them to return the sum within two months with an additional Rs 1 lakh. He had also agreed that if he failed to return the money on time he would pay them additional Rs 25,000 for every month from then. However, he was not able to make a good profit and his clients, including Hema, were delaying his payments,” said a senior official.
He added, “The creditors used to turn up regularly at his suburban residence ridiculing and abusing him in public, thereby making it difficult for him to step out of his home.”
Hoping that Upadhyay would pay him, Vidyadhar had visited her residence on numerous occasions but would be turned away every time. “There were times when Upadhyay abused Vidyadhar when he insisted on the payment and refused to leave her apartment,” the source added.
Meanwhile, for the third day in row, Upadhyay’s estranged husband Chintan, a contemporary artist, was questioned by the Mumbai Police Crime Branch and was allowed to leave only by the evening. His interrogation has revealed that he too knew Vidyadhar.
“Vidyadhar’s father admired Chintan’s father and therefore named his son after him. The families shared a very close relationship. A couple of years ago, when Vidyadhar’s father fell ill, Chintan footed his medical expenses amounting to over Rs 5 lakh and Vidyadhar has not repaid him so far,” the source revealed, adding, “Once we get Vidyadhar, it would be clear if Chintan has any role (in the murders).” Upadhyay had filed an appeal against a divorce order passed by the family court and was seeking alimony too from Chintan.
Revealing the plot and the possible motive behind the murder, one of the arrested accused has claimed in his statement to the police that since Upadhyay refused to clear the dues of Rs 5 lakh that she owed to Vidyadhar, he called her to Kandivali as part of a pre-meditated plan. Investigators believe Hema was called to Kandivali on the pretext of giving her useful information about her ongoing litigation against Chintan in the Bombay High Court. Upadhyay walked into Vidyadhar’s trap and agreed to meet him along with her lawyer.
Upon reaching Kandivali, when Upadhyay demanded information on the case, Vidyadhar started making excuses. The two then had a verbal duel which escalated into a physical row.
The accused also told the investigators that they used chloroform on Hema and Harish to make them unconscious. Chloroform is believed to be used by metal fabrication artists as it is used to clean their work.
In their remand application, the police said, they required to probe the full extent of the involvement of the accused in the murders, as well as their criminal background.
Advocate Mayur Vakil, who is representing the three accused arrested in Mumbai, said the Kandivali police had sought their custody arguing that they needed to recover Bhambhani’s car as well as the tempo in which the two bodies were transported to Kandivali. “I don’t know why the police need custody to trace vehicles when the RTO can do that,” said Vakil.
He added, “The police also said it needed to trace a few articles missing from Upadhyay’s home and needed to probe whether there were fingerprints of the accused on the articles. But there is no need for custodial interrogation to carry out that investigation.”
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