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Cops at sea in DSP murder case

Revenge, contract killing, hacked by robbers, honour killing, or none of the above - so far, these are the findings of the probe into the murder of deputy superintendent of police (DSP) Balraj Singh Gill and Ludhiana resident Monika Kapila, who were found hacked at a farmhouse on the outskirts of Ludhiana on February 1.

punjab Updated: Mar 23, 2012 22:52 IST
Anshu Seth
Anshu Seth
Hindustan Times

Revenge, contract killing, hacked by robbers, honour killing, or none of the above - so far, these are the findings of the probe into the murder of deputy superintendent of police (DSP) Balraj Singh Gill and Ludhiana resident Monika Kapila, who were found hacked at a farmhouse on the outskirts of Ludhiana on February 1.

Deputy commissioner of police (DCP) Ashish Chaudhary, who is leading the two teams probing the case, was quite forthright when he told HT, "No, there is no development in the case so far. We have not made any breakthrough, so we have not ruled out any possibility." He then mentioned all possible angles that there can be to a murder mystery. It's been nearly two months, and the page hasn't turned. No arrest has been made.

Gill's family has gone from being grief-stricken to helpless, to angry. Now the family is just crestfallen. "We don't know what is happening in the case. Nobody from the police department has even tried to contact us in the last one month.

We get to know about the proceedings from the media reports," said Dr Gursharan Sidhu, sister of the DSP, who was posted in Moga but was visiting family in Ludhiana when he was murdered. "Now we are just hoping, perhaps against hope, that the killers of my brother are brought to book," lamented the sister.

The DSP's father, Kashmnir Singh Gill, a retired commandant from the Border Security Force (BSF), had alleged that the cops had purposely delayed informing the family of the murder. He and the DSP's sister had even alleged that some policemen tried to remove evidence.

Ludhiana police commissioner Ishwar Chander and DCP Chaudhary have refuted those allegations, and argued that instead of wiping away any key evidence, forensic experts took into account "every minute detail including the footprints, fingerprints, swabs and blood samples".

The whole scene was videotaped, said the police. But as it stands, in spite of help from technical and forensic experts from Delhi, the Ludhiana police have not succeeded in making any headway in murder mystery.

Soon after the murder, the police constituted a special investigation team (SIT) comprising of senior officials to expedite the probe. After days of groping in the dark, the SIT was dissolved, and two SITs were formed. Some of the officials who were part of the original SIT, were kept on board, while some new faces were added.

But the quaintest case is of DSP Satish Malhotra and inspectors Prem Singh, Balwinder Singh and Surinder Mohan. Since the poll code of conduct was in place then - the results of the January 30 Punjab assembly elections were still awaited -- the police commissioner took special permission from the Election Commission of India to get these officers transferred back to Ludhiana. He took the plea that these officers would be elemental in solving the murder mystery.

As it turned out, only two the four cops were included in the two new SITs. Inspectors Balwinder and Surinder Mohan were kept out and have since been working at the Police Lines in Ludhiana. This has led to the belief that the murder probe was just an alibi to effect transfers of these two inspectors.

So far, teams have been sent to Mumbai, Bhopal and Shimla, but not a single arrest has been made.

A senior police officer commented, "The 'DSP murder case' has become a trophy for the members of the SIT who, instead of investigating [the case] collectively, are working on their separate trails. This can never work."

That may be an opinion unsubstantiated, but there is certainly some contradiction when one goes by the statements issued by the top officers recently.

Police commissioner Ishwar Chander had issued a statement on Sunday wherein he had claimed to have got vital clues during joint investigations conducted with the Patiala police while interrogating the murderers of assistant sub-inspector Harbhajan Singh of Barnala. In the ASI murder case, the Patiala police claimed that some robbers from Sirsa killed Harbhajan.

However, DCP Chaudhary, who as head of the probe teams been authorised to brief the media, denied having found any proof so far. Commissioner Chander remained unavailable for comments. His mobile phone was switched off.

Some close friends of DSP Gill and his family have leveled allegations that the cops are dilly-dallying in the case so as to shield some senior officials who were frequent visitors to Agnihotri Farmhouse, where the bodies were found.

The farmhouse: Agnihotri Farmhouse is owned by Sanjay Agnihotri, a property dealer, who was a close friend of the deceased DSP. DCP Chaudhary, the probe head, confirmed that there were three sets of keys to the farmhouse, one remained with Sanjay, another with DSP Gill and the third with a gardener-cum-caretaker who used to come to the farmhouse three days a week. However, sources said that there were more sets of keys to the farmhouse

The alleged affair: The police said that it had been established in the investigations that Monika and Gill were in touch for almost six months. "The relationship started after Monika mistakenly called Gill. Then he started calling Monika back regularly, and she too responded.

But the DSP never told her his real identity. He said he was an industrialist and his name was Aman Verma. They met several times as the relationship developed," DCP Chaudhary said at press conference days after the crime. The night they were murdered, was not their first visit to the farmhouse, police said.

While Monika's family has refused to talk to the media, DSP Gill's sister Dr Gursharan Sidhu accused the police of having taken the investigation in the wrong direction, "The woman angle is just to malign my brother's image. It is a part of the conspiracy that was hatched against him."

DCP Ashish Chaudhary said at press conference on February 12 that DSP Gill and Monika were murdered between 7pm and 7.30pm, adding that the incident happened after they stayed at the farmhouse for 20-25 minutes.

But, "speaking as a doctor", Gill's sister said that the woman's blood was clotted "which happens hours after the injury". "However, my brother's blood was trickling from his body, which happens when the injury is fresh," she added. In fact, Gill's father said that the cops had washed and mopped away the blood in the room before taking the DSP's body to the mortuary.

The family has questioned the manner in which the matter was handled on the crime night. They said the DSP had gone for a walk and did not return till late night. Around 11.30pm, they got a call from his subordinate who asked the family to reach Sahnewal and said that something had gone wrong. But then they were asked to reach Haibowal, from where they were asked to reach the murder spot on Hambran Road.

The whole exercise wasted more than two hours, and it was 1.45am when Gill's father reached the farmhouse, much after the police had reached the spot.

February 1: DSP Balraj Gill and a woman found murdered at Agnihotri Farmhouse near Golf Link Apartments on Hambran Road, 7 km from Ludhiana. Bodies were brutally hacked and mutilated, lying in pool of blood inside the farmhouse around 11.30pm, said police

February 2 & 3: Woman identified as Monika Kapila; DSP Gill and Monika cremated

February 4: Police round up a doctor and woman friend of Monika. They share some "important information" with the police

February 5: Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted; police recover the Chevrolet Optra driven by DSP Gill (car was owned by a friend. The police also recover the Tata Indica driven by Monika on the day of the murder. Both vehicles recovered at a gap of three hours from localities near the crime spot

February 6: Kashmir Singh Gill, the father of the deceased DSP, alleges destruction of evidence

February 8: More than 200 cops carry out a combing operation in the areas including Dehlon, Hambran, Pratap Singh Wala and various other village on Hambran Road

February 10: Cops round up some notorious criminal from Haibowal area and claim to have extracted some important information

February 12: DCP Ashish Chaudhary calls a press conference but fails to give any concrete information, except the "relationship" between DSP Gill and Monika Kapila. However, he affirms that some other senior police officials also frequented the farmhouse

February 14 : ADGP (crime) HS Dhillon visits Ludhiana and convenes a special meeting with the members of SIT. Examines scene of the crime and meets the relatives of the victims.

February 15: Over 100 cops carry out another combing operation in the residential colonies situated in Manekwal, Preet Vihar and Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar. Take down details of tenants

February 21: First SIT dissolved, two new ones formed

First Published: Mar 23, 2012 22:42 IST