| An album photograph of Shyam Karia and his wife. Pictures by Pabitra Das
Retracting his earlier 'confession', Hardik Vipani told police on Sunday that he owed lakhs to childhood friend Ankit Desai, whom he killed on January 17. Ankit had been pressing him for the money ' around Rs 9.5 lakh ' prompting him to plot the murder.
In another turnaround, Hardik told sleuths that he and Shyam Karia, an old acquaintance of both friends, had murdered Ankit, and that no other person was involved.
His earlier statement had been that Ankit owed him money and was refusing to pay up. The murder, he had said, was committed by Shyam at a spot off New Town Expressway.
Between Saturday morning and Sunday night, the police took Hardik to the fields off the Expressway to identify the spot. 'But he could not recognise it. It's difficult, as the fields have no landmarks,' said an officer.
Hardik will again be taken to New Town on Sunday night and some other places later, the officer added.
Sleuths are also probing the relationship Hardik and Ankit apparently had with a girl who lives in Dunlop.
Hours of interrogation, during which the accused changed his statements a number of times, revealed that of the Rs 9.5 lakh Hardik owed Ankit, Rs 5 lakh went into betting and gambling on snooker and bowling in Pune, where both were studying. The rest Hardik borrowed.
'Ankit's family is very rich. After his father's death two years ago, he started withdrawing money prematurely from fixed-deposit accounts for gambling. He also loaned a huge amount to Hardik,' an officer working on the case said. A team of detectives will visit Pune, Mumbai and Delhi for gathering more information on Ankit, Hardik and Shyam.
After he was picked up late on Friday on his arrival from Pune, Hardik told the police that he had accompanied Ankit on a Chevrolet Optra LS till the Wipro complex in Salt Lake's Sector V, where Shyam got into the car. Two other hired criminals followed them on a motorcycle and later joined Shyam to kill Ankit.
Once inside the car, Shyam started assaulting Ankit, who was at the wheel. The sight scared Hardik, who managed to get off, take a taxi to the airport and fly to Mumbai.
On Sunday, Hardik said: 'Two of us (he and Shyam) cut him to pieces and there was no one else.'
Sources said the police were conducting raids in several parts of the city to track down Shyam, who holds the key to the murder mystery.
Hardik's father and brother, Kirti and Hiren, were called to Ballygunge police station on Sunday and grilled for hours.