Case File | A 25-yr-old murder that took cops on a rollercoaster ride to justice

Case File | A 25-yr-old murder that took cops on a rollercoaster ride to justice

New Delhi: About a year ago, assistant sub-inspector Dharmender Kumar and his team picked out a file of a man who was declared a proclaimed offender (a person who evades the law and remains absconding in criminal cases that they’re suspects in) in the year 1997. He and his brother-in-law allegedly killed a man named Kishan Lal in Tughlakabad village’s Valmiki Mohalla, the file stated. Hoping that he is still alive, and with only an address with his name, this team started on a quest. At the time, they had no idea this case would be a roller coaster, which would ultimately give closure to a family 25 years later.

The case

The file mentioned that Ramu and his brother-in-law Tillu killed Kishan Lal. The complainant was Kishan Lal’s wife, Sunita, who told the district police 25 years ago on February 4 in 1997, that she had last seen Kishan Lal with Ramu and Tillu, all of whom drinking in their house. However, when she woke up in the morning, she saw her husband with stab injuries, and the two men were gone. The motive was a money dispute over a piece of property. District police made efforts to find the accused, but couldn’t. Eventually, Ramu and Tillu were declared proclaimed offenders by Patiala House Courts the same year, deputy commissioner of police (north) Sagar Singh Kalsi said.

“Back then, there were no mobile phones and no surveillance systems in place. We had no mobile number to track him. It was as blind as a case can be,” an investigator said, on the condition of anonymity. District police back then also visited Ramu’s native place in Farrukhabad in Uttar Pradesh multiple times, but they found that he had never gone there. “We tried to talk to the investigating officer and team working on this murder case back in 1997, but we found that the investigating officer had retired, and we couldn’t trace him, or any other member of the team mentioned in the file,” the officer said.

The complainant

The next best way for the current team was, thus, to find the complainant.

A team of three officials visited Tughlakabad village where Sunita used to live but when they visited the house, they were told that she had long since shifted houses. “But we managed to find a few elders who remembered Sunita and helped us reach her current address. We found the house and met her and the family,” the officer recalled.

When Kishan Lal was murdered, Sunita had a 4-year-old son and was expecting another child, the case files mentioned.

As the police entered, they met Sunita and Sunny (the boy she was pregnant with in 1997, now a young man). “We told Sunita we were investigating the case again, but her reaction was unexpected. She said that the family moved on from the incident with much difficulty and she didn’t want to relive the incident again. She didn’t want us to go ahead. But her son Sunny, who had never seen his father, said he was willing to help, and he wanted to find his father’s killer. That gave us a sense of hope to continue,” another officer on the team said.

Sunita gave this team an important clue — Ramu’s elder brother had since died, but his elder brother’s son Shivaker was married to a woman named Laali, whose maternal house was in the same locality as hers. She also said that Shivaker’s mother died in a road accident in 1998 and that an insurance claim case was going on.

Investigators then knocked on the doors of Laali’s parents. There they learnt that the couple lives in Uttam Nagar. The team reached Shivaker, but sub-inspector Yogender, a team member, decided that they shouldn’t tell him that they were from Delhi Police to ensure he doesn’t alert Ramu.

A rollercoaster of an investigation

“A member of the team posed as an insurance agent to meet Shivaker. We told him that he must get another instalment of the insurance claim, but for that, he needs to get a no-objection certificate from all his blood relatives. He believed us and he gave us information on all his maternal and paternal uncles and aunt, but he didn’t mention Ramu. We couldn’t directly ask him at the time because he would have then doubted us,” the officer said.

The next day, head constables Puneet and Om Prakash went to meet Shivaker with the same forms he filled in front of Yogender — to make him believe that they were indeed from the same company and told him that there were discrepancies in the information he submitted. They also mentioned that Shivaker did not share any information on Ramu. “Shivaker said that he wasn’t in touch with Ramu and his family, but he had Ramu’s son Akash’s mobile number. Just when we thought we had hit a dead end again, we saw some hope,” the officer recalled.

Akash’s number, though, was out of service. But the police were able to trace Akash to Lucknow with the help of technical surveillance and Facebook.

When the team reached the address they found in Lucknow, they were told that Akash and left the place. “Through his Facebook profile, we found a close friend. We didn’t mention that we were police officials, but we were able to find his current location three days after reaching Lucknow in the Kapoor Thala area of the city.”

Three officers then met Akash and told him that his father is due to get an insurance claim, but Akash told investigators that he doesn’t live with his father. He also said his father’s name is Ashok Yadav and that he is an e-rickshaw driver in the Janaki Puram area, who he said he wasn’t in regular contact with.

The team ran to Janaki Puram and posed as government officials who were there to provide subsidies to those willing to buy e-rickshaws under a government scheme. “We made friends with a few rickshaw drivers and offered them money and liquor. Eventually, one of them said that Ashok Yadav rides the e-rickshaw near the railway station,” the officer recalled.

On September 14, in the morning, the driver pointed toward an elderly man and said, “He is Ashok Yadav”. “We immediately reached him and asked him his name while posing as scheme officials. He said he was Ashok Yadav and not Ramu. He also denied ever living in Delhi. For any case to be cracked, knowing and fixing his identity is of utmost importance and we needed to do that. We had no photograph of Ramu to match with. So how could we fix his identity?” the officer said.

The team had one option, to call Sunita to identify Ramu. By the evening of September 14, Sunita and Sunny, who had now started trusting the team working on the case, reached Janaki Puram.

“She saw Ramu for good 20 seconds at least and said, that’s him. Right after identifying him, she fainted. She relived all that she had left behind,” the investigator who was present there said.

According to the police, Ramu confessed to his crime and said it was a mistake he had committed. And after so many years, he was sure, he would get caught.

Aisa laga ki poore saal ki thakaan ek minute main khatam ho gai (It felt like the tiredness we were feeling for a year just vanished in a minute),” an investigator described his feeling.

The hunt for Tillu, his brother-in-law, is still on, a police officer added.

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