A day after a woman forest guard, her husband and a daily wager of the forest department were found dead inside the Barda Wildlife Sanctuary in Porbandar, police booked a fellow guard for the triple murder on Tuesday.
Police are analysing the radio set and mobile phone found from the handbag of the the 30-year old forest guard, Hetal Solanki, who was seven months pregnant.
Based on a complaint filed by Hetal’s father, Vashram Rathod, Bagvadar police has registered a case of murder as well as an offence under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. In his complaint, Vashram has named beat guard LD Odedra as a suspect, stating he was the last man reported to be with his daughter Hetal, son-in-law Kirti Solanki and Nagajan Agath, a daily wager with forest department.
Hetal, the youngest of Rathod’s four children, was found dead 10 days ahead of her baby shower. The bodies of the three were found in a stream in Barda Wildlife Sanctuary with severe head injuries, on Monday.
Rathod, who retired as a technical assistant from Bhachau taluka panchayat, said that Hetal had called her mother Jamna at around 1.30 pm on Saturday. “My wife told me that Hetal, Kirti, Nagabhai (Agath) and LD Odedra were on a beat to raid a brewery of illicit liquor and that Hetal was sitting in her car. When asked if she didn’t have a holiday on Independence Day, Hetal said Odedra had got a tip-off on a brewery of country liquor and that they had gone there to destroy the brewery despite it being a holiday,” Rathod said in the FIR.
Her parents suspected something amiss when the phones of Hetal and Kirti were switched off Saturday evening. Rathod then contacted his relative in Porbandar, Lakhman Parmar, and told him to check with the local forest office at Ranavav. Parmar met Range Forest Officer Amit Vaniya who set out with some forest staff to look for the missing persons and found their car locked up near a bridge. He called up Rathod and told him there was no sign of the couple.
Rathod, who lives in Rapar taluka of Kutch district set out for Porbandar Saturday night to look for his daughter and son-in-law and launched a search with Parmar early Sunday.
After the day-long search, in vain, he asked Bhanvad range forest officer Amit Vaniya about Odedra. “Vaniya asked me what was the matter. I told him that Odedra had accompanied my son-in-law Kirti and Nagajan Agath into the forest. Vaniya then called in Odedra… and asked him where he had gone with those persons… he (Odedra) said that he had left after dropping Nagajan on the other end of the road,” the FIR added.
The father stated that he suspected Odedra had murdered his daughter as he was the last person who was with them. “…he (Odedra) murdered them due to some unknown reason by using some weapon. I suspect because he had accompanied the trio but only the three were found dead,” Rathod said in the FIR.
Dushyant Vasavada, chief conservator of forests (CCF) of Junagadh wildlife circle, confirmed that Odedra was a forest guard posted in Barda sanctuary.
Sources said that Amit Vaniya, incharge RFO of Ranavav, didn’t know about Hetal and Odedra having gone inside the forest to raid an illegal brewery, as he was also inside forest area where mobile network was not available. However, Vasavada said that the RFO and forest beat guards carry walkie-talkies for communication while on the field.
Police said that Odedra was being questioned. “Hetal’s father has named Odedra as a suspect… We are pursuing this angle and are questioning him,” said a police officer involved in the probe, adding that Hetal’s phone and the walkie-talkie set was found from her handbag.
Porbandar SP Ravi Mohan Saini and RA Patel, deputy superintendent of police (SC/ST Cell), who is the investigating officer, could not be reached for a comment.