February 24, 2021 10:59:33 pm
THE PALGHAR police, who are investigating the mysterious death of a Leading Seaman of the Indian Navy, Surajkumar Dubey (27), whose charred body was found on a hillock in Palghar area, suspect that the injuries he sustained were self-inflicted.
This contradicts the dying declaration of Dubey, who said he had been kidnapped from outside the Chennai airport by three men on January 31, who set him ablaze for not paying them a ransom of Rs 10 lakh.
Palghar SP Datta Shinde said that police have found footage from a petrol pump at Talasari, where Dubey is seen purchasing diesel worth Rs 300. The footage is from the morning of February 5, the day when he suffered the burn injuries .The petrol pump is nearly 15-20 km away from the hillock where Dubey’s body was found.
“He is seen walking towards an auto stand outside the petrol pump, from where share autos are available for the forest where Dubey’s body was found. Our investigation so far indicates that he set himself ablaze at the spot,” said an officer linked to the probe.
The officer added that while the investigation is ongoing, in the absence of any new evidence in the future, the murder case could be closed with the investigation concluding that the death could be due to self-inflicted burns. Apart from the video footage from the petrol pump, there are several other factors that are leading the Palghar Police to believe that the dying declaration of Dubey was not true.
Dubey, who had been spotted by local residents in Palghar, roaming around the forest in a partly-conscious and semi- naked state on February 6, was rushed to the local hospital. There he told the local police that he had been kidnapped from outside Chennai airport by three men in a white SUV.
He claimed that they drove him over 1,400 km to Palghar, where they set him ablaze for not paying a ransom amount of Rs 10 lakh. Dubey soon passed away, after which the Palghar Police registered a case of murder and started looking for the three accused.
During the investigation, police found CCTV images where Dubey is seen moving around the Chennai airport on January 31 without anyone with him. He is later seen checking into a lodge at Vellore, nearly 120 km away from the Chennai airport, from where he checks out on February 1. The three men and the white SUV mentioned by Dubey are not seen.
The police team then checked records from airport and train stations and found no entries in Dubey’s name. The police also checked the CCTV footage at several toll booths between Chennai and Palghar, but the white SUV with Dubey in it was not seen. Eventually, police found footage of Dubey at the petrol pump in Talasari on February 5, hours before he is believed to have sustained the burn injuries.
There is still no clarity on how he came from the Vellore lodge to the Talasari petrol pump or why he decided to come here. “However, as per his version, the kidnappers had tied his hands… that would have left at least some physical injury, which was not indicated by the post-mortem report,” said an officer.
Further, the police have found that Dubey was under considerable financial strain as he had taken loans worth over Rs 10 lakh from banks and his colleagues. In addition to that, he had also taken Rs 9 lakh from his future in-laws, to prepare for his wedding that was scheduled for May 22. He had, however, invested all of his money in the stock market and had suffered huge losses. There was no way Dubey could recover that amount before his wedding.
“We suspect the financial burden he was under could have something to do with the incident that took place on February 5,” the officer added. The police believe that the lack of any evidence of the version of events given by Dubey, the financial strain he was under and the footage of him purchasing diesel hours before he was set on fire nearby indicate self-harm.
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