The two domestic helps hired by Juhu resident Bharti Shah started working with her because they intended to kill her and rob the house, the police said.
No servants employed with 68-year-old Shah stuck on for long as she did not pay well under the belief that they did not have much to do because she was single and lived alone, the victim's elder sister Ila Mehta had told the police.
The main accused, Radhey Jhulelal Mandal, 23, however, settled for a low pay without any questions, the police said, as he wanted an entry into the house. Mandal also referred his friend to her and he too was hired at almost the same salary.
"They had planned in advance to target Shah and were aware that she did not pay well. Their intention was not to work for her but to rob her house so it did not matter how much she paid them," said Arun Bhagat, senior police inspector, Juhu police station.
The two men, with help from another friend, killed Shah two days after they started working for her.
Mandal was arrested from Bihar on Wednesday and brought to the city on Thursday, and the police are now looking for the other two accomplices.
The police suspect that Mandal and his two accomplices may have used the same modus operandi to rob other employers, and are trying to find out whether they have committed similar offences in the past. They also suspect that Mandal could be part of a bigger gang.
Victim's diary entry helped the police
The Juhu police cracked the murder case with the help of an alphabet and a name written on a newspaper and a diary.
The police did not have many leads when they started investigating the murder of 68-year-old Bharti Shah. All they knew was that the deceased had hired two servants just two days before she was killed and that her house had been ransacked; they did not have any names or photos to refer to as the victim had not yet done the police verification.
"We found that Shah had written ‘R' on a newspaper and a name, Radhey, in her diary. We suspected this could be the name of one of her servants as she had spoken to her elder sister, 74-year-old Ila Mehta, about getting the servants registered with us along with their photographs," said Santosh Bhalekar, detection officer, Juhu police station.
The police started inquiries with the name found in Shah's diary. As they started speaking with other servants in the area, they discovered that a man named Radhey had been seen in the area for a few days after which he disappeared.
During investigation, the police also learnt that Radhey hailed from Bihar and four teams were sent to track him down. The police caught him after an eight-day search and are now on the lookout for his accomplices.
Police suspect killer of more crimes
The Juhu police who arrested 23-year-old domestic help Radhey Jhulelal Mandal for killing Bharti Shah, 68, are now trying to find out whether Mandal has committed any similar offence in the past by using the same modus operandi.
They also suspect that Mandal could be part of a bigger gang.
Mandal is originally from Bihar and was arrested from Madhuban, barely 600 metres from the Nepal border, on Wednesday. The police team brought him to Mumbai on Thursday and he will be produced in the court on Friday.
Explaining how the accused committed the crime, Pratap Dighavkar, deputy commissioner of police (zone 9), said: "Mandal came to the house on September 12 around 9.45 am to clean the utensils. A few minutes later, the second servant came and started cleaning the house. When the doorbell rang the third time, Mandal opened the door and allowed a stranger inside. Shah got scared but before she could react the trio held her down, covered her mouth with a piece of cloth and then strangulated her."
Mandal, along with his two accomplices, had fled with cash and valuables from Shah’s residence after strangulating her to death. The police are now hunting for his two accomplices, one of who used to work at Shah’s home along with Mandal.
The police have recovered Rs 2,000, two diamond and gold rings, a mobile phone and several historical coins from Mandal. Of the six senior citizens murdered in the city over the past one month, three were killed by their domestic help.