With a new investigating officer assigned to the case, the Mumbai Police Crime Branch hopes to finally crack the June 2016 murder of a senior citizen in her home in Matunga.
Nearly 19 months after Manjula Vora, 78, was found murdered with her throat slit even as her 85-year-old brother Ravilal Doshi sat in an adjacent room, the Mumbai Police are still to ascertain even the motive for the killing. With robbery ruled out as nothing was missing from the home, investigators believe a financial dispute could be the reason.
Police inspector Sanjay Nikam will investigate the murder, having been recently transferred to the Crime Branch after he and his team successfully nabbed Sajjad Mughal, convicted in the Pallavi Purkayastha murder case, nearly a year after he jumped parole. On June 7, 2016, Vora was murdered inside her Matunga residence. CCTV footage and witnesses could only offer evidence of an unknown person wearing a cap entering the house.
According to the police, the suspect entered the house at 6.42 pm. Around 7.45 pm, Dr Dilip Shah, the complainant in the case, arrived for a regular medical check-up of Ravilal, who was suffering from dementia. As nobody answered the doorbell, the doctor went to the gate and enquired with the watchman. He made an intercom call to the house and a man claiming to be the new cook answered.
When Dr Shah returned to the flat, a man in his thirties opened the door and let him in, then claimed to be late for another cooking job and rushed away. The doctor then found Vora’s body. One angle the investigators had pursued was related to money Vora had loaned her regular cook. But when a team picked him up from his Rajasthan residence, the man, who had worked at the residence for nearly three decades before quitting in December 2015, was found to be innocent.
“Vora lent money on interest and had given Rs 1 lakh to her cook. He was still to return Rs 30,000. Someone informed us that recently the two had fought over the phone and Vora had threatened him, so we sent a team to Rajasthan but it turned out he was innocent. He was going to return the money,” said an investigator Another team was sent to Mudra in Gujarat to interrogate Vora’s stepdaughter Meenakshi Shah and trustees of the two trusts that Vora controlled. Her husband Manilal ran two trusts in Gujarat, the Laxmichand Manikchand Charitable Trust and the Laxmichand Vora Public Charitable Trust. Following his death in 1985, Vora looked after their functioning.
“We took statements from Meenakshi and the trustees. We checked their location as well on the day of the incident and even before and after. We didn’t find anything suspicious,” said an officer.Simultaneously, other teams were also sent to Bihar and Mumbra in Thane, after investigators received tipoffs about the man who had opened the door for the doctor.
At Matunga police station, meanwhile, a new investigating officer was appointed after the previous police inspector was transferred. “I will catch the culprit soon,” said inspector Ashok Thorat of Matunga police station. Investigators have until now interrogated more than 150 people, including Vora’s personal Chartered Accountant and vendors who entered the building premises that day. They have scrutinised more than 1,000 cellphones’ location on the day of the murder. “She got a call from a local PCO. Looking for a lead, we interrogated the PCO owner as well, but he couldn’t provide sufficient details on the suspect. On June 7, she even spoke to her sister for half an hour. We spoke to her sister also,” said an officer. No clues emerged.
Recently, the police station released a new sketch of the suspect. “The previous sketch didn’t help us much. So we drew a new sketch with a belief that it would help us in identifying him,” said an officer. A police team also recreated the scene of the crime with the help of Dr Shah and the two watchmen, Ramnath Dubey and Dinesh Tiwari. When contacted, inspector Nikam said, “I was recently transferred to Crime Branch unit 4, I am looking into every undetected case registered in zone IV.”