Mumbai, June 12: Perhaps she had sniffed it coming.
Heena, the white-and-grey female Labrador used by Mumbai police to investigate the Ghatkopar bus blast, died a few hours before a special court acquitted all eight accused yesterday.
Heena had been admitted to the Parel animal hospital last month for kidney-related problems. Her death came shortly before anti-terror court judge A.P. Bhangale began reading out the operative part of his 250-page judgment that found no evidence against any of the accused.
The verdict came as a huge setback to the credibility of Mumbai police, already battling an image crisis after a drunken constable raped a 17-year-old college student inside the Marine Drive promenade police outpost on April 21.
Heena headed the team of sniffer dogs used by the city police’s bomb detection and disposal squad and had worked tirelessly to detect explosives in the aftermath of the Ghatkopar bus blast on December 2, 2002.
Barely two hours after the blast, which killed two and injured 49 people, she had sniffed out another bomb placed in a bus in Andheri.
“Heena had helped us detect the Andheri bomb. A few days later, she spotted another package containing 92 gelatin sticks near Ruparel College in Matunga,” senior police inspector Jalinder Khandagale, previously posted with the bomb squad, said. “It is really sad that she is no more.”
Heena had been trained to detect different kinds of explosives at Pune’s sniffer dog training facility and had been recruited to the dog squad in 1997.
“She was good-natured and obedient,” Khandagale said.
“She had been trained to detect even explosives that are set off by sound vibrations. So, if she sniffed an explosive, she was trained not to bark but silently signal it to the police,” he added.
Mumbai police had another hero in Zanjeer, the male Labrador who detected several caches of RDX (research and development explosives) and arms in the aftermath of the March 12, 1993, serial blasts.
Zanjeer died a few years ago. The judgment in the serial blasts case is yet to be pronounced.