The Vile Parle police, who were looking at a number of possible suspects in the rape and murder of a 24-year-old physiotherapist in Vile Parle last December, singled out 27-year-old Debashish Dhara through a combination of grainy CCTV footage and Dhara’s sudden change in behaviour. Dhara was arrested from his village in West Bengal on January 31. According to the police, he told a friend there, “I have done something very bad.”
Though a CCTV installed at the entrance to the victim’s home had captured a man entering and leaving her house on the night she was killed, the images were too grainy to be conclusive and only gave the police an idea of the suspect’s age and height.
The breakthrough came when a team led by deputy commissioner of police Virendra Mishra started questioning people in the woman’s neighbourhood individually. When they questioned Dhara’s employer and coworkers, they learnt that he had become very silent over the past few months.
Dhara employer told the police that he kept to himself and rarely left his room. When his colleagues asked what was wrong, he said he was under stress as he had a property dispute in his village and had been looking after his mother and two sisters since his father died. According to the police, an eyewitness also identified Dhara as the person in the CCTV footage. On January 10, unaware that he was a possible suspect, Dhara left for West Bengal. By January 23, the police had zeroed-in on him as the man in the footage; they arrested him a week later.
Explaining how the police approached the case, a senior official said that a tree-chart was made with the victim at the top and three ‘branches’ of suspects.
The official said, “The first branch included all the people who may have liked her, the second had people who may have hated her for some reason, and the third included people from her neighbourhood and place of work. But none of these angles turned out to be correct as [Dhara] was not among the suspects. We then started picking up people from the area who had left the city soon after the incident. But that did not work either.”
The official added that police teams also went to many states to follow up on leads but returned empty handed every time. The police also sent DNA samples of several suspects to the Forensic Science Laboratory at Kalina but they all came back negative. It was only when the police questioned individual suspects that the breakthrough came.
Police will ask state to fast-track case
The Mumbai police plan to write to the state government and ask that the rape and murder case of the 24-year-old Vile Parle physiotherapist be fast-tracked in court. Almost two months after the crime was committed, the police arrested a suspect, 27-year-old Debashish Dhara, on Tuesday. The police said they plan to file a charge sheet in 10 days.
Deven Bharti, joint commissioner of police, law and order, told HT, “We will request the state government to fast-track the case and give us a special public prosecutor.”
Deputy commissioner of police Virendra Mishra said, “According to our investigation, the victim did not know the suspect.” He added, “After her friends left [on the night she was killed] he waited for her for around two hours. Unfortunately, the victim went to sleep leaving the door open. He went in and forced himself on her. She tried to fight back but he strangled her to death.”
Senior inspector Laxman Chavan of Vile Parle police station said, “We are awaiting the DNA report, which will give us concrete evidence.”
Another officer said, “The accused has confessed. It was a spur-of-the-moment crime, not preplanned.”