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Robbery stink in techie murder

Bangalore/Calcutta, Dec. 23: When Adhip Lahiri called wife Aparna to say he would be home in 10 minutes, she never expected to be summoned hours later to identify his body.

The techie from Salt Lake lay dead in a dark, desolate stretch off Bangalore’s Garudacharpalya lake, still dressed in the yellow check shirt and dark trousers he had worn to work.

But his wristwatch, ring and wallet, which carried his ATM cards, were missing. So was the Delhi-registered Matiz the 32-year-old was driving on Thursday night to his apartment, 9 km from his office and close to the airport.

“We feel it was a robbery attempt gone wrong,” joint commissioner of police Gopal Hosur said. “The victim probably fought back and when the gang used force to keep him quiet, he may have died of shock.”

The post-mortem hasn’t found any sign that a weapon was used.

“His nose is broken. It could have happened when he resisted as the gang tried to stuff a piece of cloth, which he used to clean the car, into his mouth. There must have been at least three attackers,” Hosur said.

The police suspect that when the robbers realised Adhip was dead, they tied his hands with the same piece of cloth and dumped the body on the roadside.

“Unless we find the car, we cannot gather fingerprints or other clues. The gang has hidden the car well. We are combing the area for tyre tracks, leftover articles and his mobile phone, which is switched off,” the joint commissioner said.

It was the mobile that gave Aparna, a Tata Consultancy Services employee, the first hint that something was wrong.

When her “workaholic” husband, an employee of i2 Technologies in the Whitefield IT park, hadn’t reached home two-and-a-half hours after calling her at 10 pm and his phone changed to “switched off” mode, she lodged a complaint with HAL Airport police.

As police wireless sets crackled through the night, sending out descriptions of Adhip and his car, news of an abandoned body reached the control room. Aparna was called to identify it on Friday afternoon.

At the Lahiri home in Salt Lake, grief was tinged with incomprehension. “Adhip was soft-spoken and well-behaved; he never picked fights with anybody,” uncle Asit said.

Adhip’s parents were in Bangalore this afternoon to cremate their son, who was to leave for Germany on Monday on an assignment. Arun Lahiri is a retired engineer who worked with a public sector insurance agency and Adhip’s mother, also named Aparna, teaches at a girls’ school in Dum Dum’s Motijhil. Their younger son Ayan is a second-year mechanical engineering student at Jadavpur University.

Adhip studied in Salt Lake’s CA school before graduating in mechanical engineering from IIT Kharagpur. After a stint with a foreign bank, he did his MBA in New Delhi.

It was in the capital that he and Aparna met and got married six years ago. The couple, who had no children, shifted to Bangalore two years back after she received the TCS offer.

Aparna’s father, Rear Admiral S.S. Mukherjee, arrived in Bangalore last night from Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam. “I thought Bangalore was considered a safe city,” he said.

But the police said night-time carjacks and robbery attempts have risen in the IT capital. “There have been five cases in the past six months, most of them involving techies at night,” an officer said. “They are either followed from ATMs or forced into their car when they stop to relieve themselves.”

Or, the attackers may have flagged Adhip down, said a colleague. “Adhip was a nice person who helped everyone.”

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