The police are revisiting the disappearance of a model from Santacruz, who was on close terms with murder accused Vijay Palande and has been missing since 1998.
A special team has been formed to investigate this case separately.
Police sources said the model had disappeared following the double murders of Air India employee Anup Das and his father Swaraj, for which Palande was convicted.
Sources said that when Palande worked as a steward at Copper Chimney in Juhu, he befriended Anup. They developed a good rapport as the father-son duo would visit the restaurant often and Palande would look after them.
Palande had his eyes on the Das’ wealth and the sprawling property they owned in Juhu, and sources said he used the Santacruz-based model as bait, just as he used his wife Simran Sood to entice his targets - as in the cases of Anuj Tikku, son of Arun Tikku, and aspiring producer Karan Kakkad.
As Anup’s acquaintance with the model grew, so did Palande’s influence in his life. “Palande took advantage of the relationship to assess the property details,” the source said.
Palande then murdered Anup, cut up his body into pieces and dumped it at Kumbharli Ghat near Chiplun, where he allegedly recently dumped Kakkad’s body too. He then killed Swaraj Das and dumped the body near Lolan in Pune district.
A few days after the murders, he started living with Sood.
Palande’s crime came to light when Sood and one of Palande’s sisters went to a bank in Borivli to withdraw Rs 5 lakh from Anup’s account. The signature on the cheque made the staff suspicious, and the duo was arrested for cheating and forgery. Soon after, Palande was arrested.
During interrogation, Palande confessed to the murders, and subsequently, the skeletal remains of the father-son duo was recovered.
Sources said during interrogation, the police learnt about the model and how Palande had used her. “But she could not be found. The police did not probe her whereabouts as no one suspected her role in the crime,” the source said.
Palande was convicted for the double murders in 2000, and the riddle of the missing model was never solved.
Now, following Palande’s arrest, the police suspect the worst for the missing model.
Palande’s German wife to be questioned
The crime branch will summon Palande’s German wife, Nibis Legenza, for questioning in connection with the probe into the murder of Arun Tikku.
Nisar Tamboli, deputy commissioner of police (crime), said officials will seek help through diplomatic channels to question Legenza, who is believed to be in Germany.
Legenza, who is in the hospitality industry, was in Mumbai on a business when she met Palande. Later they married.
In March, she signed a lease agreement with Arun Tikku’s son Anuj, to live in their Lokhandwala flat for a monthly rent of Rs 30,000. She paid Rs 5 lakh as deposit.
In the agreement, Simran Sood, who Legenza knew as Palande’s sister, figured as a witness.
Tamboli said the police have identified 20 witnesses in the Tikku and Kakkad murder cases.