Gangster Munna Bajrangi murder: Police say pistol, bullets smuggled into jail in food packets

Prison officials seek transfer of the main suspect, Sunil Rathi, to another jail. They also plan to enhance security at the Baghpat district jail, where Bajrangi was killed.

india Updated: Jul 11, 2018 19:51 IST
Rohit K Singh
Rohit K Singh
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Munna Bajrangi,Uttar Pradesh,UP gangster murder
Gangster Munna Bajrangi’s wife had warned that he would be killed if shifted from Jhansi jail. (PTI File)

Police believe that the pistol and bullets used to murder gangster Prem Prakash Singh alias Munna Bajrangi may have been smuggled into the Baghpat district jail in food packets meant for rival Sunil Rathi.

“Initial investigation clearly suggests that a pistol, two magazines and multiple cartridges were smuggled into the premises in these packets as there are no CCTV cameras or metal detectors installed at the prison’s entrance,” a senior IPS officer privy to the investigation said.

Rathi – a murder convict serving life imprisonment – enjoyed the privilege of getting food packets and other items of everyday use from external agents without the court’s permission, the IPS officer said, adding that the aides who supplied these articles did not even jot down their names in the visitors’ register.

According to the officer, the Baghpat jail authorities were unable to check the food packets due to an acute staff shortage. The facility has only 33 staffers – including the jailor and three deputy jailors – to oversee as many as 816 inmates.

Bajrangi was taken to the Baghpat district jail for a court hearing despite his wife, Seema Singh, holding a press conference at Lucknow on June 29 to declare that his life would be in danger there. The gangster’s lawyer, Vikas Srivastava, condemned the manner in which officials took him to the prison despite repeated requests that the court hearing be conducted through video conferencing. “Most of the inmates of Baghpat jail are supporters of Rathi. Either the jail personnel supported Rathi or were afraid of him. Interestingly, six other inmates who had earlier confronted Rathi in Baghpat jail were transferred to different district jails on the recommendation of the then jailor Uday Pratap Singh a few months ago,” he said.

A police inspector posted in Baghpat admitted that Rathi, a local resident, enjoys considerable clout in the jail. “There have been many reports of the gangster making extortion calls from prison in the past,” he added.

A senior police officer said considerable planning seemed to have gone into Bajrangi’s murder. “When questioned, Rathi admitted that he took a bath and washed his clothes immediately after executing the murder. The pistol used for the crime was thrown into an eight-foot-deep drain on the premises in an attempt to wash off his fingerprints,” a police officer said.

The weapon, besides two magazines and 22 cartridges, were recovered from the drain after a marathon search of over nine hours. “There is a very low probability of us finding any fingerprints or gunpowder on the pistol,” the officer admitted.

Although Rathi reportedly told police that he had opened fire on Bajrangi in self-defence, the weapons used for the purpose seemed to suggest that they were smuggled into the jail as part of a calculated plan. Nevertheless, proving Rathi’s involvement in court would be an uphill task for investigators – given how all the evidence was destroyed. “Police will have nothing tangible to present before the court if Rathi retracts his statement during trial,” the officer said.

A prison officer said that three inmates from isolation cells – who were present on the scene at the time of Bajrangi’s murder – allegedly helped Rathi destroy all the evidence. “There are 10 enclosures in the prison’s isolation cells. While Bajragi stayed with one Vicky Sunehra in enclosure number 2, Rathi was put up in enclosure number 10,” he added.

Rathi to be shifted

Meanwhile, the prison administration hopes to shift Rathi to the Lucknow district jail in order to prevent further incidents of the kind. “We have written a letter to senior government authorities, asking that Rathi be shifted from Baghpat district jail to some other jail,” said additional director general (prison) Chandra Prakash.

He said the gangster would be moved to another prison, preferably the Lucknow district jail, within two days of acquiring the state government’s clearance. “We will also enhance the security of Baghpat jail by installing CCTV cameras on its premises,” the prison officer added.

First Published: Jul 11, 2018 19:50 IST