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A tinkle to top cop, and the tears start flowing

Mumbai, March 29: A sobbing Manisha Koirala called up the Maharashtra police chief from Australia yesterday to say how upset she was at media reports linking her to the murder of her secretary five years ago.

The reports had said extradited don Abu Salem, prime accused in Ajit Dewani’s murder, had confessed to the police during a narco-analysis test that it was Manisha who had hired him for the job.

The actress, who had remained unreachable in Australia for two days after a TV channel carried the report, called up D.S. Pasricha at 9 am yesterday, the director-general of police told reporters.

“I received a phone call from Manisha Koirala, who is in Australia, at 9 am on Tuesday morning. She was sobbing initially, and kept repeating that somebody was trying to play mischief and that she was scared that her reputation was in shreds,” he said.

Pasricha added that the actress denied any role in Dewani’s murder, and said she had never spoken to Salem.

He said Manisha called him again at 9.15 am and seemed relieved when he told her the police had rubbished the reports.

Salem is accused of having Dewani murdered because he wouldn’t pay extortion money.

Sources in Mumbai police’s anti-terrorist squad (ATS) said the narco-analysis on Salem was ordered in another case: the murder of Pradeep Jain. The Mumbai builder, too, had allegedly been killed by Salem’s men after he refused to pay extortion money.

The sources said Salem was asked three questions about Dewani’s murder: did he kill Dewani; did Manisha play a role in it; and if he wasn’t directly involved, who could the other likely conspirators be'

Salem had said “no” to the first two questions and, to the third, denied any “direct” role in the murder, the sources said.

“Salem did not mention Manisha’s name during the narco-analysis tests. If Manisha’s involvement was discovered during Salem’s tests, the crime branch would have been notified,” a top ATS source said.

“No narco-analysis was ordered by the Mumbai crime branch in the Ajit Dewani case, nor has there been any confession naming Koirala,” said a senior officer of the crime branch, who is handling the 2001 murder case.

During the narco-analysis test, the police secured details of how Salem’s gang networked before carrying out a crime, the sources said.

Manisha’s friends claim she has been unnecessarily dragged into the controversy.

Publicist Rajoo Kariya, who was earlier associated with Manisha and was a close friend of Dewani, said: “I have done several films with Manisha. I don’t think she would indulge in any such activities.”

Film-maker Sudhakar Bokade, who had worked with Manisha in Dhanwan and Kanyadaan, said: “It’s absurd and shocking how anyone can talk without evidence.”

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