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Trunks made-to-order for murder
Little trace of money trail

detective wing takes over probe into ekbalpore triple killing

Mohammad Sikandar had visited a trunk-maker three days before the Ekbalpore triple murder and ordered two that were larger than the usual size sold there, sleuths probing the case revealed on Monday.

The accused allegedly stacked the trunks at his shop where he and his accomplices would later bury the bodies of his tenant Pushpa Singh, 37, and her daughters Pradipti, 14, and Aradhana, 12, the police said.

The victims were found interred three feet under the concrete floor of the shop, which had been closed for some time, on Sunday.

Sikandar and three accomplices allegedly murdered Pushpa, a widow, and her daughters in their rented flat at Yasin Manzil on Suresh Das Road on the night of March 29. The accused claims the victim had taken Rs 13 lakh from him to vacate the flat, only to back out of the deal.

The bodies were dug out after the arrest of Sikandar and his associates Mohammad Amin, Asif Humza and Nurul Hossain.

“On March 26, Mohammad Sikandar, the victims’ landlord and the suspected mastermind of the killings, went to a shop in Orphangunge Market and placed an order for two trunks. He paid Rs 250 as advance,” an officer at Ekbalpore police station said.

Trunks of the size Sikandar was allegedly looking for are generally not available over the counter. He was aware of it and so visited the trunk-maker three days before the allegedly pre-meditated triple murder, the police said.

The made-to-order trunks were each 5ft long, 3ft wide and had a depth of 2.5ft, the officer said. “Sikandar told the shop owner that he or his men would collect the trunks on March 29.”

Manoj Shukla, the trunk-maker, said he couldn’t recall Sikandar’s face. “If someone requires a large trunk that is not readily available at my shop, he or she places an order. A man did order two such large trunks but I can’t recall how he looked,” he told Metro on Monday.

Sikandar had allegedly sent Amin and Asif to the trunk shop around 4pm on the day of the triple murder. The duo fetched the trunks and kept them in the shop off Diamond Harbour Road where the bodies were later buried, the police said.

The investigating team has yet to trace the trunks in which the bodies were brought from the victims’ apartment to the shop, 200 metres away.

The victims’ family on Monday accused Ekbalpore police station of negligence, saying the officers there had initially made damaging insinuations rather than start a probe into the complaint of abduction lodged by Pushpa’s father.

“The police are hand-in-glove with Sikandar. Otherwise, when we lodged the complaint, why were they bent on establishing without an inquiry that my daughter was having an affair with someone and had gone away by herself?” Pushpa’s father Paresh Nath Singh alleged.

The detective department of Calcutta police took over the investigation from Ekbalpore police station on Monday. Joint commissioner of police (crime) Pallab Kanti Ghosh visited the shop where the bodies were found and Pushpa’s flat during the day.

The police said they nailed Sikandar after getting hold of “specific electronic evidence” against him.

“There is no direct evidence yet of Sikandar’s involvement in the triple murder, but the call details of his mobile phone gave him away. He had made 36 calls to his friend Mohammad Amin in the span of 14 hours. The timing of the calls coincided with the disappearance of the woman and her daughters. Our men picked up Amin and he spilled the beans,” said a senior police officer familiar with the investigation.

City police commissioner Surajit Kar Purkayastha met family members of the victims at SSKM Hospital on Monday and assured them “all possible help”.

The police have learnt that Pushpa had received around Rs 65 lakh in insurance after the unnatural death of her husband in 2010.

She had been maintaining four bank accounts, two each in Howrah and Kidderpore, until last year. “She closed the accounts in Howrah last year. We have asked bank officials to freeze her accounts in Kidderpore. She has several fixed deposits,” an officer said.

Her father alleged that his daughter’s passbooks, chequebooks and ATM cards were missing from her flat. “When I entered the house, I found the cupboard where she kept all these documents empty. They have been stolen,” Singh said.

The police haven’t found any evidence of Sikandar paying Rs 13 lakh in two instalments.

“Sikandar had purchased the flat in 2008 and rented it out to Pushpa in 2010. He took an apartment on the fourth floor of the same building on rent for himself,” an officer said.

The police suspect Sikandar was desperate to get Pushpa to vacate the flat so that he could give it to a new tenant and earn a huge amount as selami.

In the selami system, the rent of a property is lower than what it would otherwise command in the market. To compensate for that, the tenant makes a large one-time payment to the owner.