The first time Animesh Jha smoked heroin with his friends in Pune in 2007, he did not like the taste or the “paranoia” he experienced. But the dense smoke that engulfed his room caught his imagination. To recreate the smoky atmosphere, he smoked again the next day.
The fascination for the smoke soon turned into addiction and recurring experiences of paranoia. Over the next few years, 32-year-old Animesh jumped from one well-paying job to another before quitting working altogether as he sank deeper into the world of drugs that also included marijuana, thinner and cocaine at times.
Educated in Malaysia, Animesh is well-read, speaks in immaculate English and is popular for striking “interesting conversations”. “He is possibly the most confident criminal I have ever met. He looks you straight in your eyes while answering questions,” said a police officer who interrogated him after arresting him for allegedly killing his mother Meeta Jha.
Investigators say that the combination of addiction and loss of job made Animesh dependant on his 53-year-old mother for money. The paranoia that had gripped him led him to suspect his mother and sister, Anjali, of plotting against him. He began to fear that his mother would sell their flat in Dwarka and give all the money to Anjali.
He told the police that Meeta initially gave him money, which he used to buy drugs. “When she refused, she saw the violent streak in him. He would manhandle her and threaten to kill her. The last time she actually felt he would carry out his threat was just about a month ago,” said an officer.
“The mother and son were on a visit to Nepal. When Meeta refused to give him money for drugs, he beat her, locked her in a room and took her credit card to withdraw around Rs 15,000. The Nepal Police caught him, but his mother requested them to let him off,” the officer added.
Meeta did not know that her mercy would cost her life just a week later. When Animesh asked her for money again around 3 am on February 24, she refused. Animesh tried to grab her purse containing the cash, but she stood up to him.
“A restless Animesh responded by grabbing her by the neck and pushing her to the wall next to her bed. Meeta suffered a skull fracture. To ensure she died, he strangulated her,” said Surender Kumar, DCP (South-West).
CCTV cameras installed at the Sai Sadan Apartment in Dwarka Sector-3 showed him locking his flat from outside and riding away on a Yamaha FZ motorcycle with his mother’s laptop, credit cards and jewellery.
The 16 CCTV cameras installed in his apartment were no simple security arrangement. Animesh’s antics after smoking up were what compelled the owners of the other 11 flats in the posh apartment to install the cameras.
“Animesh had become a menace. He would break our car windows and push our motorcycles for no reason. He would switch off the building’s power supply and halt the lift just to trouble us. Earlier he used to accuse his mother of plotting to kill him, but over the past few months he had started accusing us too,” said a resident of Sai Sadan on condition of anonymity.
The drugs had damaged Animesh’s reputation such that when Anjali, a London-based doctor, was unable to contact her mother for four days after Meeta’s murder, she called the Dwarka (North) police station around midnight on February 28 and told them she suspected her brother had killed her mother.
“Meeta had messaged her daughter after Animesh beat her in Nepal. She knew of her brother’s problems with addiction. So when she feared her mother was not safe, she suspected her brother,” said an investigator. A police team broke into the flat to find Meeta’s decomposing body lying on her bed.
Over the next 13 days, Animesh visited 13 cities, including Rishikesh, Haridwar and Kasol. “He chose some of these cities as they provided him an easy escape from police and at the same time easy access to smack and marijuana,” said the investigator.
All this while, a police team led by Dwarka (North) SHO, Jasmohinder Chaudhary and inspector Rang Lal, followed trails left behind by him. Animesh was finally nabbed from Patna railway station in the early hours of Wednesday while he was planning to escape to Nepal. “Highly intelligent” Animesh had created a LinkedIn account to contact a distant cousin for help, but that led to his arrest.
Animesh has allegedly confessed to having killed his mother for refusing to fund his drugs, but often comes up with “stories” that reflects his deep paranoia. “Sometimes he says his mother is actually alive and that she and his sister have staged all this to get rid of him,” the investigator adds.
In police custody for 10 days, Animesh often leaves his interrogators confused about whether he is making up the stories or imagining them. “We have ample scientific and circumstantial evidence to link Animesh to his mother’s murder,” said the DCP.