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Murder aides help nail mastermind

Police on Tuesday claimed to have cracked the Vinod Agrawal murder case, within a month of the Jamshedpur rice trader being fatally shot at and robbed in the steel city.

The arrest of two men in their early twenties from the fringe area of the city two days ago has helped police nail serial offender Salauddin, currently in custody for another murder, as the mastermind of the June 21 attack on 44-year-old Agrawal.

Following interrogation of the duo — identified as Bablu Ansari and Ramzan Ansari — police have also recovered two 9mm pistols that were hidden in a slum at Burmamines. The arms are being sent for forensic tests to ascertain whether they fired the two bullets that hit the Golmuri trader in the chest and abdomen, causing his death at Tata Main Hospital a day later.

A manhunt has been launched for three others, who, police suspect, knew about the murderous assault, but were perhaps not directly involved.

Addressing newsmen at his office, SSP Richard Lakra confirmed that the primary motive behind the attack was robbing the hefty cash — Rs 7 lakh — Agrawal had on his person. The trio, however, managed to take only a part of the money that was in a handbag.

“We had suspected Salauddin’s involvement from the very beginning. But, he did not confess and we had no strong evidence to nail him until a couple of days ago,” SSP Lakra said.

Salauddin, detained in the Agrawal case, was arrested on July 3 after he confessed to murdering transporter Pappu Yadav. He is, currently, in five-day police remand.

According to the senior officer, the case unfolded after Bablu and Ramzan were rounded up on Sunday following a tip-off. They were arrested from Pardih, some 20km from the heart of the city, when they got off a bus on NH-33.

“Grilling the two helped us put missing pieces of the puzzle together,” Lakra said.

Interrogation revealed that 44-year-old Salauddin — who has a history sheet of almost every crime from pickpocketing to contract killing — plotted the attack on Agrawal.

Salauddin knew that the trader carried fat cash between Parsudih, where he owned a grocery store, and Golmuri.

“On June 21, Salauddin, Bablu and Ramzan followed Agrawal on a bike. Ramzan got off the bike 10 metres from the murder site, perhaps a decoy. The other two intercepted the trader’s bike near Tube Company gate. They asked him to hand over the cash. He resisted. They shot him — Salauddin also slit his throat — took the bag and fled. On their way back, they picked up their third aide who was also keeping vigil,” the SSP said.

He added that the pistols, hidden at a slum in Burmamines, had been recovered, but the murder vehicle was still missing.

Lakra confirmed that three more names had figured in the murder case. “Though the three are not directly involved, but they were aware of the conspiracy. We will disclose names only after arrests,” he said.

On Salauddin’s criminal antecedents, the SSP said he was wanted since 1990. “He has a record from pickpocketing to contract killing. He was also eyeing plots of land in Ranchi as well as Rajasthan,” the SSP added.