More than a year ago, on a cool February night, Ajay Jadav, aged 18, and his 22-year-old friend Ravi Nayka were sitting on the desolate banks of Tapi river in Surat’s Amroli area when they spotted a beggar, a man in mid-20s with a wiry frame. Soon, they got him into a conversation, speaking in Hindi. As the three started getting engrossed in conversation, Ajay and Ravi overpowered the beggar and took turns to sodomise him at a knife-point. After robbing him of whatever money he had, they slit his throat. Once dead, they mutilated the beggar’s face. Next morning, Ajay and Ravi flipped through the pages of local newspapers at their home in Uttaran, on the outskirts of the city. They spotted the news item that they were looking for — a brief of an “unidentified” beggar found murdered in Amroli area. The dead beggar was not missed by anyone and no one cared to file a missing person report with the police. Relieved to know that the police were clueless of the beggar’s identity, Ajay and Ravi, confidently, planned their second murder.
For the next one year, the duo, according to the police, committed at least 10 murders. And their modus operandi was the same: Ajay and Ravi used to drive an autorickshaw through the dark underbelly of Surat’s labourer and migrant-dominated neighbourhoods, preying on their next victim — a male of a small build, poor and migrant. Next, they used to offer them lift in their autorickshaw, drive them to a desolate place and kill them, but not before sodomising their victims and robbing them of their valuables. However, they used to always disfigure their victim’s face so that they could not be identified.
“Their targets were men, between 20 and 25 years old, and their motive was to satiate their sexual desire. Their victims were mostly poor factory labourers,” says Assistant Commissioner of Police, Surat Crime Branch, R R Sarwaiya, who is heading the probe. With the victims remaining unidentified, the police were unable to join the dots between the murders until July this year, when they stumbled upon Ajay and Ravi and arrested them in connection with a case of kidnapping and sodomy.
On January 14, as the city was celebrating Uttarayan by flying kites, Ajay and Ravi kidnapped a 16-year-old boy from Sahara Darwaja area of Surat. They took the 16-year-old to Mota Varachha where Ravi held a knife at the boy’s stomach to silence him as they took turns to sodomise him in an open area. After robbing him of Rs 200, the duo dumped the teenage boy at a desolate place and left. The boy, who had come from Bihar to work in a textile factory six months ago, filed a complaint with the police and returned to his native place. It was the testimony of the 16-year-old boy that helped the police close in on the duo. Based on his statement, police reconstructed the entire sequence and that led them to seize Ajay’s autorickshaw which he used to drive for a living.
Ajay and Ravi were arrested on July 24, and during interrogation, “both confessed to having unnatural sex” with the 16-year-old boy, said police. They also confessed to killing at least 10 persons. “They admitted to having unnatural sex with two minors — one the 16-year-old from Mota Varachha area in January this year and another, a 12-year-old son of a migrant labourer from West Bengal whom they abducted from a slum in Sachin on September 14, last year. In both the cases, Ajay and Ravi did not kill the minors. They used to kill only the adults to avoid being caught by the police… On the basis of their confession, the investigation was handed over to the Crime Branch so that detailed investigations could be carried out. We have so far confirmed four murders and two cases of sodomising of minors, but the victims are yet to be identified,” said Sarwaiya.
A police officer, who interrogated the duo, said that Ajay, though younger, is the one who used to kill the victims, while Ravi used to be his accomplice.
After killing a beggar on the banks of Tapi on February 1, Ajay and Ravi waited for nearly two months to make their next kill — a 40-year-old man whom they found near Avadh Erena, an under-construction commercial complex on VIP Road. Seeing him alone, they took out a knife and demanded money. After the man refused to do so, they forced him in the auto, slit his throat, and took away Rs 4,000 from his pocket. After finding the body, police registered a case of murder at Khatodara police station. His body remained unidentified.
Their third victim was a 22-year-old, who they spotted waiting for an auto near Uttaran bus stop in the summer of 2017. As Ajay drove the auto and Ravi being the co-passenger, the two men took the youth to an agricultural field near the railway culvert at Katargam where they sodomised him. After the victim retaliated, they slit his throat and hit his face repeatedly with a large boulder before it was disfigured beyond recognition. Police recovered the body on May 21 and a case of murder of an “unidentified” youth was registered.
Their next victim was a 25-year-old youth who had allegedly eve-teased Ajay’s cousin in Kapodara area last year. Police had found the body and a case of murder of an “unknown person” was registered against “unknown person/persons”.
Ajay, a resident of Surat, had dropped out of school after Class 10. According to police officers who interrogated the duo, Ajay had an emotional breakdown after his mother eloped with a man around two years ago. “He was close to his mother and sister, and both went their ways… He then started driving an autorickshaw and ferried passengers mainly in Punagam, Varachha, Mota Varachha, Sarthana areas,” a police source said, citing the interrogation notes.
One day, his auto was hired by a group of eunuchs in Kapodara area. This, the police said, proved to be a significant turn in his life. After driving the group of eunuchs the whole day to different locations, he dropped them home by evening. The eunuchs paid him good money and he began to like their company as they gave him food and tea. In that group of eunuchs, he drew particularly close to one, identified as Sonu, and fell in love with her. Sonu and her eunuch friend Rani would take Ajay with them for drinks. According to Ajay’s statement to the police, they also got married at a temple.
“Ajay behaved nicely with us, and seemed innocent and even shy in the beginning. We also liked him, and slowly he was likable to all of us. Ajay also shared his family history with us, about his mother and his sister who had got married, and that he felt lonely. This touched my heart and so we became best friends. We used to play cards at home with him and watch movies and enjoy our lives,” a police officer quoted Sonu’s statement to the police last week when she was questioned in connection with the string of murders and sexual assault.
Six months later, Sonu ended the relationship with him after a quarrel and refused to meet him. After breaking up with Sonu, Ajay reunited with Ravi, his friend from his teenage days. Both used to live in the same neighbourhood and Ravi like him was a school drop-out.
“There is no evidence so far if the two shared a sexual relationship. Both lived in the Uttaran area, and Ajay used to look up to Ravi,” said a police officer.
Sonu told the police that she read about his arrest in the papers and was shocked to know about his alleged involvement in the murders. She also said that she had visited Amroli police station to meet him when he was in police custody.
During interrogation, Ajay and Ravi claimed of killing at least 10 persons, but the police are yet to identify all the murders. Till date, they have been able to identify the four murders, stated above, as claimed by them.
“They have claimed involvement in 10 murders that they said were committed at different location. We went through the files at local police stations and did not find these murders in their records. On record, we have charged them for four murders and two sodomy cases on minors,” said Crime Branch ACP Sarwaiya.
In the remaining six murders, as claimed by the duo, the bodies of the victims are yet to be traced. Now, the police are trying to piece together the plot by going through the complaints of missing persons filed at all the police stations of the city to find if anyone of the “missing persons” is remotely linked to the murders as described by Ajay and Ravi.
“We have given details of the murders described by the duo along with their photographs to the missing persons cell of Crime Branch to try and find their identities… Many people from other states work here in Surat and in the textile factories. They stay in rented rooms shared by other migrants. We will send our teams in labour colonies in the nearby areas from where the bodies have been found to identify the deceased,” said Sarwaiya.
One major reason, police say, it took them so long to track the two youths was that they did not have a criminal record and all the four bodies of men who they killed remain unidentified.
On Saturday, Ajay and Ravi, booked on charges of unnatural sex, murder, kidnapping, robbery, and destruction of evidence, were sent to judicial custody after their police remand ended.
“We will investigate all the murder and sodomy cases confessed by them. In the coming days, we will arrest them again through transfer warrant from court for their alleged involvement in four murders and one sodomy case,” the ACP said.
Given the brutality of the murder and the linked sexual assault, police are also planning to carry out a psychological evaluation of both the accused to find whether they had become victims of any kind of sexual abuse in their past.
Sarwaiya admits that the case is a tough one. “This is first such case in my tenure. We did came across a similar case in Rajkot, a few years ago, where a man after having unnatural sex with the abducted person killed him. But in this case the identity of deceased are still not known. So, there is a big question mark. But we are putting all efforts to crack the case,” he added.