It was the monsoon of 1968. A serial killer was on the loose in then Bombay, and men, women and children were being killed across the northern suburbs of the city, their heads battered, their jaws broken. Then, on August 24, Sub-Inspector Alex Fialho spotted a man carrying a wet umbrella in sunny Dongri. Fialho walked up to him and placed his hand on the man’s shoulder.
Mumbai’s first big-ticket serial killer, Raman Raghav, had been arrested and Fialho had got the biggest break of his career. He was awarded the President’s Medal for the arrest, and retired as Assistant Commissioner of Police. On Saturday, Fialho passed away in Mumbai.
“Fialho passed away peacefully at his Mumbai residence in the early hours of Saturday aged 92. He is survived by his wife Sheila. He was a loving father/father-in-law to Fabian/Rita, Wendy/Anthony & Brian and grandchildren Alexa, Athena and Theia,” a message from his family read. His funeral was held at St Andrews Church at Bandra.
Former Mumbai commissioner Julio Ribeiro says Fialho was a “celebrity” about whom he had heard of even before he could arrive in Mumbai.
“I had heard of Fialho as this good hockey player who played in the police team. In the later years, I interacted with him and he was an officer who knew his work. He will, of course, always be known for nabbing Raman Raghav.”
The Raman Raghav case got another lease of life with Anurag Kashyap’s 2016 movie, the Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer Raman Raghav 2.0. In the run-up to the movie and after, Fialho, who joined the police force in 1962, gave a string of interviews on the case that defined his career.
For two months in 1968, Bombay was rocked by the killings, mostly of homeless people. People shut themselves in after dark, or armed themselves with sticks or clubs if they had to venture out.
Emmanuel Modak, then commissioner of police, wanted the murders solved quickly to restore public confidence. A team led by inspector Vinayakrao Vakatkar was formed to crack the case.
From accounts of survivors and investigations, police zeroed in on Raman Raghav, a migrant from Tamil Nadu with a criminal record. Fialho, who was part of Vakatkar team, carried Raghav’s photo in his pocket all the time, and so, in August 1968, when he spotted a man in Dongri, he walked up to him. Raman Raghav had been arrested.
What gave Raghav away, Fialho recalled in an interview once, was that he was carrying a wet umbrella in sunny Dongri. On being questioned, he told Fialho that he was coming from Malad, where it was raining. Police had spotted the killer in Malad over the previous days.
Eventually, Raghav confessed to over 40 murders, for which he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
In one of his interviews after the release of Raman Raghav 2.0, Fialho had said that one of his regrets was that Raghav had passed away before him.
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