‘New probe totally altered the course of school murder case’ - Hindustan Times
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‘New probe totally altered the course of school murder case’

Jul 10, 2024 07:49 AM IST

On the morning of 23 September 2017, when Bassi entered his office, his mind was busy with the details of the new case he had been assigned

The CBI formally took over the Gurugram school case on 22 September 2017, and thus began an investigation that altered the course of the case entirely. The investigative agency appointed Ajay Kumar Bassi as the IO, handing over all documents to him. Bassi was thought to be one of the most honest and hard-working officers of the CBI.

Representational image.
Representational image.

On the morning of September 23, when Bassi entered his office, his mind was busy with the details of the new case he had been assigned. In his 18 years of service in the CBI, he had cracked cases of kidnapping and molestation of foreign tourists, the Telgi counterfeit stamp paper scam, cases involving explosives, narcotics, passport offences and so on. But this case was a category unto itself. It was one of the toughest cases he had ever dealt with.

As Bassi began going through the intricate details of the case, he realized that he needed to begin his investigation by relooking at the CCTV footage, questioning the witnesses that the CCTV footage revealed and also going back to the crime scene to regather forensic evidence. He was trying to work out the facts and view them from a perspective different… Essentially, he would start from scratch.

Bassi walked up to the LED screen in his room and turned it on. He started watching the CCTV footage which had been handed over to the CBI by the Gurugram Police the previous day. According to the CBI charge sheet, this is what the footage reveals:

At 8.00.04 a.m. CCTV 6 captures Prince entering the school building through the ‘wooden gate’ used by the students.

All those entering and exiting the wooden gate are captured by CCTV 6.

The water cooler gallery itself turns left on to another corridor called the ‘washroom gallery’, which has the entrance to the boys’ bathroom where Prince was found. At the end of the washroom gallery is a ‘T point’. All those entering and exiting the washroom gallery from the T point are captured by CCTV 5.

At 8.00.34 a.m. Prince, along with a class 11 student, is seen exiting the washroom gallery in CCTV 5. The older student apparently knew Prince well as they were both heavily involved in the school’s music group.

At 8.01.03 a.m. Prince is captured re-entering the washroom gallery by CCTV 5. This was the last time Prince was seen alive.

At 8.01.23 a.m. the class 11 student seen earlier is captured re-entering the washroom gallery.

At 8.01.58 a.m. Harjot the gardener is seen entering the wooden gate and heading to the washroom. As Harjot is about to enter the washroom, the class 11 student comes out and tells him that there is an injured child inside, referring to Prince.

At 8.02.35 a.m. Harjot exits the washroom gallery to get help for the injured Prince.

The only other persons who were in these two galleries at the time of Prince’s murder were Amit Kumar, the bus conductor, and Jairaj, a school bus driver. Amit was seen entering the water cooler gallery at 7.53.43 a.m. According to the CBI charge sheet, at the time of the murder he was outside the bathroom, at the water cooler, where he was chatting with Jairaj. This was confirmed by Jairaj.

So who was this class 11 student? And what could he tell us about Prince’s death? According to the CBI timeline, he was the last person seen with Prince. He was also the first person to have discovered Prince injured and alerted Harjot. Perhaps he could tell the authorities something valuable that would help them crack the case?

The student’s name was Bholu. And even earlier on the morning of Prince’s murder, the CCTV cameras had seen Bholu hanging about near the bathroom and the water cooler. He had repeatedly entered and exited the area that morning.

Bholu’s statements were recorded by the Gurugram Police on 15 September 2017 at his residence and again on 19 September 2017… Bholu had told the police that he had met his friend Tarun earlier that morning and that they had agreed to meet later near the water cooler.

Bholu further told the police that he entered the toilet on the ground floor when he heard vomiting- like sounds coming from there. When he entered, he saw an injured Prince in a pool of blood. He rushed out and told Harjot who happened to be walking towards the washroom that there was an injured child inside.

When he gave his statement to the police, Bholu did not mention anything at all about Amit Kumar or having seen the conductor in the toilet where he had found Prince in an injured condition.

Bassi reflected on the footage and on the statements given to the Gurugram Police till then.

In his office, Bassi picked up the phone and made a few calls. Bholu and Tarun were called to the CBI office the next day, 24 September 2017.

On 24 September, Tarun and his uncle and Bholu and his father duly arrived at the CBI office at the appointed time. It is a time-honoured tactic to make persons about to be interviewed wait for some time. This could scare them and make them less resistant to authority, more forthcoming, less likely to lie.

Bassi finally called Bholu and Tarun into the room together. The two young boys walked in, introduced themselves and stood there, staring at Bassi.

‘How can you call me like this, without any explanation?’ Bholu allegedly asked Bassi.

‘Don’t try and tell me how to do my job,’ replied Bassi sternly.

In his statement to the Gurugram Police, Bholu had mentioned that, on that terrible day, Tarun and he had met in the morning and that they planned to meet again at the water cooler – that’s why he was hanging around that area. But Tarun denied this point-blank – either that they had met earlier that morning or that they had plans to meet near the water cooler.

According to the CBI, the CCTV footage would support Tarun’s contention. Tarun entered the school building through the wooden gate at 7.54.24 a.m… Tarun was then spotted by a CCTV camera on the second floor at 7.56.10 a.m. But Bholu would only enter the school building through the wooden gate at 7.58.04 a.m. and would stay on the ground floor throughout the time in question.

This seemed to be an odd little inconsistency. So why had Bholu been hanging around the water cooler? And why did Tarun’s and Bholu’s stories not match?

The names of the victim and the accused were changed in the book in accordance with court guidelines.

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