Mansukh Hiran’s body was recovered from the Retibunder Creek in Thane on March 5. (HT File)
Mansukh Hiran’s body was recovered from the Retibunder Creek in Thane on March 5. (HT File)

Thane trader Mansukh Hiran’s body had head, neck injuries

The ATS is probing the death of the auto spare parts dealer who is linked to the explosives-carrying SUV found parked outside Mukesh Ambani’s house last month
By Manish K Pathak
PUBLISHED ON MAR 19, 2021 01:19 AM IST

The body of Thane businessman Mansukh Hiran that washed ashore the Retibunder Creek in Thane district on March 5 had injuries on the back of his head and neck, a Maharashtra anti terrorism squad (ATS) officer said Thursday, even as the investigating authority sought a second opinion from a Haryana forensic science laboratory after the diatom test returned positive indicating that he may have died by drowning.

The ATS is investigating the death of 48-year-old Thane-based auto spare parts dealer who is linked to the explosives-carrying SUV that was found parked outside billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s house on February 25.

“It appears that someone/some people assaulted Mansukh Hiran with a blunt and heavy object, perhaps made him unconscious. They then put four or five handkerchiefs in his mouth and covered his entire face with a scarf,” a police officer said on condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to speak to the press.

“The murderer might have used chloroform to make Hiran unconscious or might have used some other means, because Hiran’s face was covered by number of handkerchiefs and was covered by a mask. Perhaps, he was later (after becoming unconscious) thrown into the water,” the official added.

The result of the diatom test submitted by a forensic team at the JJ Hospital on Wednesday confirming the presence of diatoms in Hiran’s body was sent to the forensic science laboratory (FSL) in Madhuban, Haryana to seek a second opinion.

Diatoms are single-celled algae and this test is usually conducted to detect their presence in the body to indicate drowning.

“The government lab in Haryana has expertise in conducting such tests. The samples have been sent to get a confirmed report,” a senior official said.

The viscera reports are still awaited from the Kalina forensic science laboratory.

Though the JJ Hospital report suggests that Hiran was alive when he was thrown into the creek, some ATS investigators have raised doubts regarding this line of inquiry. Officials are sceptical about the possibility that Hiran was alive when he was thrown into the creek, as they felt that this was too big a risk for the murderer(s). “In such a scenario, there is always a possibility of the victim somehow succeeding in saving himself,” an official said on the condition of anonymity.

After Hiran’s body was recovered by fishermen on March 5 and handed over to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Hospital in Kalwa, the Mumbra Police filed an Accidental Death report stating that prima facie it seemed that Hiran had died by suicide.

The body had no identifying markers: Hiran’s wallet, gold chain, gold ring studded with a pukhraj stone and wrist watch were not found on him when his body was recovered.

On March 7, Hiran’s wife Vimla, 43, gave a statement to ATS stating that she was certain that her husband had been murdered. She claimed that Sachin Vaze, the police officer from crime intelligence unit (CIU) of the Mumbai Crime Branch, was probably involved in the death.

Based on her statement, ATS filed a case of murder against unknown persons and began to treat Hiran’s death not as a case of suicide or accidental drowning.

In her statement, Vimla told the ATS team that Hiran was too good a swimmer to have drowned.

Vaze was arrested by the National Investigation Authority (NIA) on March 13 for his alleged involvement in parking the Scorpio outside Ambani’s Antilia residence last month. The suspended cop is also under the scanner for Hiran’s death.

Hiran had reported the Scorpio missing on February 18.

NIA Investigation

NIA on Thursday seized another luxury car allegedly used by suspended Mumbai police officer Sachin Waze, PTI reported.

The Toyota Land Cruiser Prado was found parked outside Vaze’s residence in Saket area of Thane, an official said. The car reportedly belongs to a local Shiv Sena leader Vijaykumar Ganpat Bhosale, who had contested 2014 Assembly elections from Guhagar in Ratnagiri on Shiva Sena’s ticket. The context in which the SUV has been seized is not clear. Bhosale’s mobile was not reachable.The vehicle was brought to the NIA office on Pedder Road.

The NIA has also seized another Mercedes reportedly owned by Narmada Offshore Construction Pvt. Ltd from Navi Mumbai. However, its link to Sachin Vaze is as yet unclear.

The NIA had seized a black Mercedes-Benz GLC 220D 4Matic from a parking area of the Azad Maidan police station, which was reportedly used by Vaze. They recovered 5 lakh in cash, a note-counting machine, vehicle registration plates and some clothes.

A senior Mumbai police officer said NIA found an invoice of 28 lakh for the car’s purchase in February while conducting a search of Vaze’s office at CIU. “We also found a car key,” the officer said.

On Wednesday, the NIA team mapped all the possible routes used by the suspects driving the Innova and Scorpio from Thane to Carmichael Road in South Mumbai.

A Mahindra Scorpio that was in Hiran’s possession was found abandoned on Carmichael Road near the Ambani residence with 20 loose gelatin sticks and a threatening note on February 25. A security officer in Ambani’s security detail raised the issue with the Mumbai police, and the Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad was called in, because the car was found bearing a number plate identical to that of a vehicle in Nita Ambani’s security convoy.

Investigation later revealed that an Innova car and the Scorpio had arrived at that spot on the intervening night of February 24 and 25, and the Innova had driven off with the Scorpio driver after a few hours.

The NIA, which took over the investigation on March 8, also reportedly found that a man who seemed to have been dressed in a PPE kit, returned later that night.

The team investigating the presence of explosives arrested former CIU head Vaze and told HT that he had staged the whole thing in a bid to regain his “lost glory”. Vaze, who joined the Mumbai police in 1990, was suspended in 2004 for his alleged involvement in a purported custodial death of a terror suspect, Khwaja Yunus. Vaze, who joined the Shiv Sena in 2007 after retiring from the force, was reinstated last year.

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