The murder of senior journalist Chandrika Rai, 42, and his family on Saturday in Madhya Pradesh's Umaria district might be linked to the abduction of the son of a government official last week, police said on Monday.
Although the police officially claim they rescued the boy on Friday, department sources said parents paid Rs 50 lakh ransom after which the kidnappers released the child.
The new leads that emerged after the interrogation of the accused also brought the local SP Manohar Singh under the scanner.
A day after the rescue of the abducted boy, the police had organised a press conference on Friday, during which Manohar Singh claimed that the two accused, Raja and Afasar Khan, were not involved in the kidnapping.
"Rai bluntly told the SP that he was wrong. They are the real culprits, he had insisted," said a journalist who was present at the media briefing, on condition of anonymity.
"When Rai came out of the news conference, he was not satisfied with the police version and said they were trying to save Raja and Afasar."
On the same night, Rai and his family-wife Durga, 39, son Jalaj, 20, and daughter Nisha, 17-were found brutally murdered at their residence on Saturday. They were allegedly killed with iron rods.
The police have ordered an STF probe into the murders.
When HT tried to contact Manohar Singh, his phone was not reachable.
The police had earlier suspected the involvement of the illegal coal mining mafia active in the region as Rai, a freelance journalist with several newspapers, had written extensively against it.
Rai had hinted at the involvement of Umaria MLA Gyan Singh in illegal mining in his articles against the mining mafia, especially Sati Lal, the 40-year-old business partner of Gyan Singh's son-in-law, Nirmal Singh.
Recently, a case had been registered against Lal for illegal coal mining. He has since been absconding, the police said.
Meanwhile in Bhopal, state home minister Umashankar Gupta ruled out CBI inquiry into the case for now.
Senior cops surprised
Senior police officers of the district are also surprised by Manohar Singh's defending the accused at a press conference. "I am not aware of that press conference and if the SP had done this without my knowledge, it's a blunder," said DIG Raja Babu Singh. He said the abduction had links to Lalganj in Mirzapur, UP. "If the two were not involved in the kidnapping, why were they brought before the media, that too without informing me?" Singh said.