The crowd outside Saurabh Sharma’s Jharia residence in Dhanbad on Sunday. Picture by Gautam Dey
Dhanbad, Aug. 19: Saurabh Sharma, the teenaged son of a Jharia trader who went missing on Friday, was strangled to death with a gamcha later at night by his own friends before they rang up his father demanding a ransom of Rs 20 lakh.
The body of the 13-year-old, a Class VIII student of DAV Centenary Public School at Baniahir in Jharia, was recovered from Jealgora forest around 2.30am today following the arrests of the three culprits yesterday.
Sohail Khan, 18, a Class XII student of De Nobili School in Digwadih and a neighbour of Saurabh, had hatched the fake abduction plan with Pradip Singh, 20, a resident of Jealgora. The victim was also acquainted with Pradip, whose cousin Ajit Singh, 19, spilled the beans before police.
Pradip and Ajit were nabbed from their homes in Jealgora, 5km from Jharia on the outskirts of Dhanbad, late yesterday evening. Sohail was held in Jharia.
A team led by Dhanbad superintendent of police Ravi Kant Dhan also seized the victim’s slippers and liquor bottles from the crime spot in Jealgora. Saurabh’s body had been dumped in a ditch.
Sources in the police said that Sohail, the son of PDS shop owner Muslim Khan, wanted to teach a lesson to Saurabh, who used to flaunt the wealthy status of his family and ride a bike with youths around the locality.
Saurabh’s father Surendra Sharma, a BCCL employee and who runs a tent house and transportation business, recently sold off the bike.
“Sohail and Pradip made a plan with Ajit and the trio lured Saurabh while he was going to Jorapokhar for tuition. They rode away in bikes to Jealgora on the pretext of spending the evening drinking in the isolated forest area,” said deputy superintendent of police (DSP) R.N. Sharma.
The four drank and around 7.30pm Saurabh even had a brief chat with his mother over phone. However, an hour later he was strangled by the three youths who feared they might be caught by the police.
The culprits made a few ransom calls soon afterwards from Saurabh’s mobile phone, asking his father to pay up within three days.
Dhanbad police launched an intensive search operation on Friday night under the DSP after the victim’s father lodged a complaint. They raided several localities in Jharia such as Amlapara, Manbad, Digwadih, Jealgora, and Jorapokhar until yesterday.
The police netted the three accused after their names cropped up during interrogation of four of Saurabh’s friends — Vikram Singh, Shashi Singh, Bhola Kumar and Suman Kumar — who attended tuition classes with him.
The trio buckled under police pressure and confessed to the murder.
Said Coal Belt DIG Lakshman Prasad Singh: “The three killed Saurabh on the day of kidnapping by strangulating him with a gamcha (towel). The accused hid the body in a ditch and had visited the spot yesterday morning to make sure he wasn’t alive. We have sent the body for post-mortem and the report is likely to be handed over this evening.”
A teacher of DAV Centenary Public School said Saurabh was not serious in his studies and often skipped classes. He had attended classes only on the 1st, 4th and 8th of this month and missed tuition classes too.
Meanwhile, a large number of policemen led by Jorapokhar circle inspector Parmeshwar Shukla reached Baniahir after a mob gathered outside the house of Sohail and pelted stones around 7.30am.
Sohail’s family had fled the house on Friday evening itself.
DSP Sanjay Ranjan Singh, who also visited the locality with personnel from Dhanbad, is camping at Jorapokhar.
Policemen from Jharia, Jorapokhar, Gaushala, Lodna, Alakdiha, and Borragarh have also been deputed in Baniahir.