Calcutta, Aug. 12: Her head bleeding from crowbar blows, she was dragged through the spacious Alipore apartment to the storeroom where the killers slit her throat.
Lalita Devi Goenka, 71, died an agonising death.
“It was a brutal murder,” said Anuj Sharma, deputy commissioner of police (south). “So much brutality is not commonly associated with murders for petty financial gain.”
After a preliminary reconstruction, police believe the crime was committed early today. Lalita Devi was asleep in her 10th-floor flat when the assailants struck.
Her cries for help, if any, did not reach her two sons and their families who live in two flats on the ninth floor.
The murder was discovered around 7.15 this morning by Madhu, wife of Lalita Devi’s elder son Hemant. A spiralling flight of stairs — without a door at either end — connects Hemant and Lalita Devi’s flats.
“It is difficult for muffled noises to travel across the length of a huge and fully closed flat and reach someone, who is sound asleep, a floor below,” Sharma said.
Lalita Devi was last seen alive by Hemant and his family who, like every other day, had dinner together in the old lady’s apartment. Dinner over, they retired to their flat after sending the seven servants away to their quarters. Only two maids live in Hemant’s apartment.
Her husband, Bhagabati Prasad Goenka, a businessman, died two years ago. The family is distantly related to industrialist R.P. Goenka.
The police are yet to figure out how the assailants — judging from the crime the sleuths suspect there were at least two — gained entry into Shriniket, a well-guarded landmark on Ashoka Road in Alipore, and then into the victim’s flat.
Madhu said like every other morning she went up the stairs from her flat to see her mother-in-law. The police quoted her as saying she became suspicious when she found the bedroom door ajar and saw the bloodstains on the sheet but could not find Lalita Devi.
A search through the 3,500-sq. ft apartment brought her to the locked storeroom but the keys were missing. Madhu also questioned the guards on duty. They could not throw any light. Fearing the worst, she called her husband who had left at 6.30 to play golf and informed the Alipore police station and Lalbazar.
The body was discovered in a pool of blood after the policemen broke down the storeroom door. The police also found a crowbar and a kitchen knife in the bedroom.
That the killers had walked away with only Rs 15,000 from a chest of drawers in the bedroom, leaving behind gold ornaments, buttressed the claim of the sleuths that the crime was not for petty financial gain. “Robbery does not appear to be the motive,” a detective said.