On August 25, 2003 at midnight, Senior Inspector Vinayak Saude, in plain clothes, walked briskly along the narrow Juhu Gully in the western suburb of Andheri.
This was 12 hours after two bombs exploded at the Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazaar.
The driver of the taxi in which the bomb exploded at the Gateway, had told the police about the suspicious passengers — a bearded man, his burqa-clad wife, a daughter and an infant.
He had picked up the family near Shoppers’ Stop in Andheri (W). They emerged from Juhu Gully and the man lugged a heavy bag, which was kept in the boot. After dropping them at Gateway, the driver stepped out for tea. Within minutes, there was an explosion.
Meanwhile, at Juhu Gully, Saude went straight to his trusted informer — a tea vendor.
The chaiwala told Saude he had seen Ashrat Ansari (one of the convicts) with a family of four, a day earlier. The description of the family corroborated the cabbie’s version.
Saude watched Ansari’s movements.
“He had turned religious and subdued,” said Saude, now head of Andheri Crime Branch unit.
Ansari was picked up for interrogation on August 30. He confessed to his links with the Gujarat Revenge Force headed by
the bearded man, with whom he had been seen at Juhu Gully.
The man was Sakinaka resident Sayeed Mohammad Hanif, a rickshaw driver, who worked abroad and had returned to Mumbai before the blasts.
“Hanif returned home around 9 pm that day,” said Saude.
Posing as census officials, two constables approached his home. On Spotting Hanif, they conveyed this to the waiting cops. A team, including Saude and inspector Vijay Salaskar who was killed in the 26/11 attacks, knocked. “Hanif answered. We told him we knew of his hand in the blasts,” Saude said.
After initial protests, he gave in. Hanif asked his wife, Fehmida, to come along.
The police recovered gelatine sticks, timers and detonators from the house. “They planned to strike during Ganpati and Navratri,” said Saude, who won the Deepak Jog Memorial Award for the Best Detection Officer.