On an evening in August 2010, the life of a young and talented software engineer from Kolkata was snuffed out by four men looking to make a quick buck. The only clue that the killers left behind was a blood-stained shirt which led to the arrest of the four killers.
Dipen Banerjee (25) had moved to Navi Mumbai after completing his education and landing a job with a well-known IT firm around June 2010 and was staying in a rented apartment in Sector 8, Airoli. He was known in the building as “that young man who is at work through the day”. He was polite but reserved and mostly kept to himself, said former neighbours.
On August 10, Banerjee’s sister called him from Kolkata to check on him, which she would do frequently. When he did not answer the phone, she did not think much of it at the time. However, when repeated calls went unanswered till the next day, she called the real estate agent who had helped him secure his flat. The agent himself tried calling Banerjee but when he had no better luck, he called the Rabale police. A team of policemen broke the door down and found Banerjee lying in the bathroom in a pool of blood. There was signs of someone having ransacked the house and Banerjee’s laptop computer, cellphone and credit card were missing. The police registered a complaint of murder and robbery against unidentified persons and set about making further inquiries.
“We found a shirt in the house which had been used to clean up some of the blood. On close examination, a tailor’s label was visible. We set about finding out if we could find out more about the tailor using the mark,” said senior police inspector Nasir Pathan, Oshiwara police station, who was at the time in charge of Rabale police station.
Tailors, the police said, are enterprising businessmen. Some embroider the names of their shops on the labels of the clothes that they stitch, some put a logo to go with it. The more ambitious of the lot add their contact numbers as well and this was where the police got lucky.
Using the contact number that a tailor had included on his label, the police traced the tailor to Karad in Satara district. This tailor not only recognised his handiwork instantly, and a bit proudly, the police said, but also remembered who he had stitched it for. Investigating officers remember talking among themselves that tailors are in the same league as barbers and paanwallahs when it comes to their memory.
“The tailor had stitched the shirt for a local resident, who told us that his friend, one Suresh Gurav, had borrowed it. We found that Gurav had family in Pune and went there. Once in Pune, we traced Gurav’s residence and questioned his brother,” said an officer who was part of the investigating team.
Using tact and patience, the police explained to Gurav’s brother that if Gurav had done nothing wrong, nothing bad would happen to him.
However, they further told him, it was a fact that a shirt which had been known to be in Gurav’s possession had been found at the scene of the murder and the least that had to be done was to question him.
Agreeing to help the police, Gurav’s brother called him up and told him to come home right away as there was an ‘emergency in the family’. Gurav, who was in Pune then, rushed to his house only to find a team of policemen waiting for him.
“He spilled the beans on the entire plan. Using the results of his interrogation, we picked up Santosh Raut, Bhavesh Lukkad and Vinod Bandal and brought them all to Navi Mumbai, where they were placed under arrest,” the officer added.
Like many single working professionals working in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, Banerjee relied on the ever-useful dabbawalla for his daily meals. Unfortunately for Banerjee, the man who brought him food was also the one who killed him.
Bandal, the alleged mastermind of the murder, was the dabbawalla and used to deliver food to Banerjee’s house daily. Over time, he became friendly with Banerjee and learned that he had a well-paying job as a software engineer, after which the lure of easy money first started germinating in his mind. The sight of expensive electronic gadgets and other accessories, which were lying around Banerjee’s house, only helped the idea to grow further and Bandal ultimately enlisted the aid of his three friends.
On August 10, the quartet reached Banerjee’s house late in the evening and once he opened the door, they overpowered him and stabbed him thrice. Gurav, who panicked on seeing blood flowing, took off his shirt and attempted to stem the flow. He ultimately left the shirt in the house before fleeing, not knowing that it would turn out to be his undoing.
“The case is pending trial,” said Pathan.