In a confession to the magistrate, Pradeep Rajbhar — who now says it was given under duress — said that Chintan Upadhyay promised Vidhyadhar Rs20 lakh to kill artist Hema Upadhyay. Pradeep described how Hema and her lawyer Haresh Bhambani were killed at the Charkop warehouse on December 11, 2015.
“Vidhyadhar had a handkerchief, on which he poured something. He told me to hold Hema Madam. I, Vidhyadhar, Shivkumar, Vijay and a juvenile accused got down, one at a time. Vijay switched off all the lights. I caught hold of Hema and Vijay put the handkerchief on her nose. Shivkumar and (juvenile) caught hold of the man and Vidhyadhar put the handkerchief on his nose,” Pradeep said in his confessional statement recorded under section 164 of the CrPC.
“Bhambani bit Shivkumar on his left hand. During the struggle, Vidhyadhar sustained an injury to his forehead after he fell against the corner of a table corner. He suffered mild bleeding,” added Pradeep.
“Vidhyadhar fixed a tape around the man’s hands, legs, mouth and eyes. He also fixed a tape around Hema. She became conscious for some time. Vidhyadhar again pressed the handkerchief to her nose. After some time, I put my hand on her neck and noticed she was not breathing at all. I t ld Vidhyadhar that Hema and the man were dead.”
Pradeep said after Hema died, Vidhyadhar removed the tape and took pictures of her with his phone.
Pradeep also told the magistrate how Chintan instructed them to lure Hema to the warehouse.
“On 8th December 2015, Vidhyadhar came to Bansraj Art Company and called me and Vijay downstairs. He told me Chintan bhai called us to Chembur,” Pradeep said.
He added that Vidhyadhar asked him and Vijay, the tempo driver, to switch off their mobiles prior to meeting Chintan. Vidhyadhar had a new Nokia phone, he said. The trio reached Chembur at 6.30 pm, where Vidhyadhar called Chintan from his new phone. “Chintan was standing near a red car,” he said.
“I told Chintan I was unemployed and that I badly needed money. Chintan told me that he had work for me. If I did it, he would pay me a large sum. He told me to call Hema and tell her that I am Mahendra Gupta, a cook who works at the bungalow at Jaipur. He told me to tell her that I had three video clips of Chintan sleeping with a girl,” the confession read.
“Chintan told Vidhyadhar ‘Agar tum Hema ka kaam kardoge toh tumhe bees lakh de dunga’ (If you do the work, I will give you Rs 20 lakh). I asked Vidhyadhar what it meant. He told me it referred to murdering Hema.”
Pradeep called Hema and told her she could have the video clips in exchange for Rs 2 lakh. On December 12, Vidhyadhar paid Pradeep Rs2,000 and Azad Rs1,000. He asked Pradeep to hide the bottle, handkerchief and half the burnt tape.
Pradeep confessed on March 8. However, in June, he filed an application before the sessions court stating that the confession was extracted from him under pressure and under threats to his family.