Rajbir Singh, Delhi's most controversial police officer who earned dubious fame by killing over 50 terrorists and criminals, was shot dead in Gurgaon by a friend - with a revolver he had gifted the assailant only three days ago.
The assistant commissioner died instantly after close friend and property dealer Vijay Bhardwaj, 42, whipped out a .32 bore revolver and fired at Singh from close range at his office on the Mehrauli-Gurgaon road around 10.30 p.m. Monday following a row over money.
Singh, 48, was seated on a chair when Bhardwaj calmly walked up to him and fired, giving the victim no chance to react, police said after the first incident of a senior Delhi Police officer being murdered.
In a remarkable coincidence, Singh, an ace sharpshooter who enjoyed Z plus security, had given the killer weapon to Bhardwaj after the latter had cited threats to his life. But Bhardwaj clearly did not hesitate to turn the revolver against his friend of 20 years.
Bhardwaj fired three shots in quick succession. Two bullets tore through Singh's forehead. The third did not find the mark.
After the murder, Bhardwaj telephoned his lawyer and TV news channels. He told them that he had killed Singh after a heated argument during which the officer demanded the immediate return of Rs.6 million he had loaned him for the purchase of land at Palam Vihar in Gurgaon.
The two men had been drinking alcohol for 45 minutes before their arguments ended in tragedy.
In his statement to the Gurgaon police, Bhardwaj admitted killing Singh. But he continued to address the slain officer, father of a 14-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter, with an honorific "bhai sahib".
"Rajbir Bhai Sahib and I had some longstanding money dispute. He was pressurising me for five or six months to return the money or face dire consequences," an apparently remorseless Bhardwaj told reporters before the police reached the scene.
"I was too scared. Once I tried to commit suicide but my family intervened. Monday was the deadline for arranging the money, but I failed," Bhardwaj said. The police whisked him away even as he continued to speak to TV reporters.
His sister later said that Singh had been sending Bhardwaj threatening SMS messages and phoning him too.
The dramatic killing of Singh, known widely as an "encounter specialist" for people he shot dead in gun battles, stunned Delhi Police, where he headed the newly formed Special Operations Squad.
Police admitted they were surprised that the murder was committed by one who knew Singh for two decades and whose family regularly visited Singh's family in the Indian capital as well as the victim's hometown near Rewari in Haryana.
Gurgaon Police Commissioner Mohinder Lal described Bhardwaj and Singh as "good friends". Singh and Bhardwaj's younger brother had studied in the same college.
Singh was a terror to the underworld because he did not hesitate to kill.
The controversial officer, who joined Delhi Police in 1982 as a sub-inspector, soon climbed the ladder of hierarchy with two out-of-turn promotions for his role in killing at least 56 criminals and terrorists. He was honoured with five presidential police medals for gallantry.
He served for six years with Delhi Police Special Cell after which he was moved to Delhi Armed Police and then the traffic wing following tapes of his purported conversations with a contractor on a land deal being made public.
Later, a vigilance probe gave him a clean chit stating that a retired police official connived with others and recorded his phone calls illegally to settle scores with him.
Singh's security cover meant that an armed policeman always accompanied him and had gone with the officer Monday too to Bhardwaj's office at the edge of the Indian capital.
Dressed in a white-striped shirt and black trousers, Singh reached Bhardwaj's office at around 8.15 p.m. with his security officer Lilu Ram and assistant sub-inspector Jawahar in a police car.
Police said Bhardwaj's room boy Krishna asked Singh's guard and driver to go to a nearby petrol station just before the murder.
Bhardwaj then asked Krishna to fetch a candle from the market. Once there was none else in his office except Singh, Bhardwaj shot him dead.
Police chief Lal admitted that the killing could have been averted if only the guard had not deserted the room.
"We are verifying whether (the killer weapon) was licensed or not," Lal said.
The post-mortem of Singh was carried out at a Gurgaon hospital. He was cremated Tuesday afternoon near Rewari.
Bhardwaj has been remanded to two days of police custody.
Lal said: "We don't think Bhardwaj is mentally unstable. We are investigating the matter from all possible angles and phone details of both the victim and the accused are being verified."
Singh was involved in the investigation of the terrorist attack on parliament on Dec 13, 2001 and on the Red Fort here in 2000.
Deputy Commissioner of Delhi Police (Crime Branch) Anil Shukla said: ""We are providing full support to the Gurgaon police in their investigations."