A forensic team at the house on Thursday. (Gopal Senapati)
The person who delivered the parcel bomb that killed crime reporter and rights activist Chaitali Santra had most likely faked his identity as a courier company employee and made her sign an acknowledgement to look convincing, say investigators.
A police scan of all courier franchisees in Howrah the day after Chaitali’s death revealed that none of them had any record of a consignment being delivered at 47/2 Dakshin Baksara, Lalkuthi, on Wednesday afternoon.
“The person who delivered the bomb had apparently made Chaitali Santra sign an acknowledgement, as is the norm in the courier business. The victim had little reason to suspect he was not what he appeared to be,” an officer said.
Chaitali, 40, was killed in the blast that occurred the moment she had unwrapped the parcel. Husband Himangshu, 48, suffered 80 per cent burns.
The couple’s daughter Shatabdi, 18, was at a private tuition when the tragedy occurred. The teenager, who had a heart surgery as a child, put up a brave face in front of investigators who questioned her for several hours.
“I have handed over each of my mother’s diaries to the police. She had been facing threats, but who could have thought that death would come this way?” said the student of journalism and mass communication at Asutosh College.
With her father in hospital, neighbour Shanti Gharui has been Shatabdi’s support since the blast that tore her world asunder. “I have not been able to enter our house except once right after being informed about the incident. All my belongings are there, two nightdresses are all that I have with me,” she said.
Madhumita Manna, the family’s domestic help for a decade, said she remembered only two occasions when parcels were delivered at the two-storey house.
“Apart from telephone and electricity bills, we received parcels twice as far as I can remember. Bubai (Shatabdi’s pet name) had ordered something (a pen drive each from online shopping portal Flipkart) twice. The company called before delivering the packets on both occasions,” she said.
Madhumita was on the first floor of the house when the blast occurred.
“Dada-Boudi had just retired to their room after lunch. I hadn’t eaten…. I was waiting for Bubai to return from class. I was upstairs washing clothes when I heard the bell ring,” Madhumita recalled. “I asked ‘ke (who is it)?’. Boudi answered from the ground floor that there was a parcel and she was receiving it. I returned to the washroom.”
Within minutes, she heard a bang and saw shards of glass fly.
A team from the central forensic science laboratory is collecting samples. “The preliminary findings suggest the presence of ammonium nitrate in the explosive that caused the blast,” DGP Naparajit Mukherjee said at Writers’.
A police team visited Westbank Hospital to speak to Himangshu but a few minutes of recorded conversation were all they got because of his condition.
Chaitali used to be harassed by anonymous callers, her family members have told the police. The family of an engineer who had allegedly had a tiff with Chaitali after she helped his wife register a torture complaint against him has been questioned.