A retired Army lieutenant allegedly left a trail of six bodies in a two-hour rampage with an iron rod as the weapon, in Palwal early on Tuesday. The accused, Naresh Dhankar, was finally arrested from outside his estranged wife’s house. Police said all six murders were committed between 2 am and 4 am on Tuesday.
The first body, found near Palwal hospital, was reported around 2.30 am on Tuesday. The victim was found to have suffered a head injury. The second victim, a woman named Anjum, was attending to a relative admitted in the ICU of Palwal hospital. She, too, appeared to have been beaten to death with an iron rod.
The murders first came to light at half past two on Monday night when police received information about the first body being found near the Palwal hospital, with the victim appearing to have sustained a head injury.
According to Jawahar Singh, a relative of another patient admitted in the ICU, Anjum was sleeping on a bench when she was murdered. “The man came with an iron rod and hit her on the head, after which he went and hid in the bathroom next to the ICU. One of her relatives, who was downstairs, heard her screams and came upstairs to check. That is when the man came out of the bathroom, pushed him out of the way, and fled,” said Singh. “One or two people ran after him, but it was dark and he managed to escape.”
In the next couple of hours, four more murders came to light — the victims included an on-duty guard and a machine operator on his way to work. “Checkpoints were set up across the city, and police personnel were deployed on foot at all junctions and markets. PCR vans were sent out as well,” said Sanjay Kumar, PRO, Palwal police.
The bodies were taken to the government hospital in Palwal, where all the victims were found to have sustained head injuries. Dhankar was finally arrested at 7 am — from Rasulpur Chowk in Palwal — after he turned up at his father-in-law’s house, demanding that he be let in. While his father-in-law refused to comment, a neighbour told The Indian Express: “He was standing outside their gate since 5 am, but they refused to let him in. Around 6.30 am, he began banging on our gate with an iron rod as well. He was shouting abuses and demanding shelter and food.”
“I opened the gate when we thought he had calmed down, but he hit me on the hand with the rod. I also noticed blood on his pants and immediately shut the door,” said the neighbour, who then called the police. “Police told us over the phone that he had killed six people and we should help arrest him. So we went after him when he headed to another part of the neighbourhood. He was rushing to attack us with the rod when police turned up,” said Bhagwan Singh Saini, another neighbour.
Dhankar is the youngest of five brothers and hails from Machar village in Faridabad. He was currently staying at Omaxe City in Palwal. Police said he left the Army under the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) in 2003 and joined Haryana’s agricultural department as an agriculture development officer in 2006. He was posted as a sub-divisional officer in the department in Bhiwani.
Police said Dhankar and his wife were separated — the latter had been living with her father for the last four-five years. The couple has an eight-year-old son who lives with his mother. Police said Dhankar may have been planning to murder his wife and son, but was arrested before he could do so. “Even when police apprehended him, he tried to hit officers with the rod, but the team succeeded in nabbing him and seizing the weapon. Further investigations are being conducted,” said PRO Kumar.