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Vidya guest house in killer hunt

A hunt for a murder accused on Wednesday took cops to the Sarat Bose Road guest house where Vidya (Balan) Bagchi had famously put up during her search for her husband’s killer.

By the time Calcutta police reached Mona Lisa guest house, suspect Debjani Das Majhi, 45, had fled.

She was finally caught in front of her Purna Das Road home on Wednesday evening on the charge of murdering Dipali Sarkar, a 67-year-old resident of Dwarkanath Seth Road in Bhowanipore.

Police said the accused, a distant relative of the victim and a land broker, had been constantly changing her location since the murder in an attempt to lose the sleuths on her trail.

One of the places where she touched base briefly was Mona Lisa guest house, which featured prominently in the blockbuster Kahaani, starring Vidya Balan.

Cops said an urgent need for money and anger at being outwitted by the elderly woman in a property deal drove Debjani to murdering Sarkar.

“Dipali Sarkar was negotiating with a realtor through Debjani to develop her plot. But she later allegedly started interacting with the realtor directly. Debjani missed her commission and started nursing a grudge against the victim,” said an officer.

“Debjani needed Rs 86,000 by Tuesday evening to pay her domestic help, who alleged that she had been cheated by her employer. Debjani has admitted that when Sarkar refused to help her financially, she got angry and pushed her. She claimed the elderly lady hit her head against the bed frame and died. But the post-mortem revealed the victim had been smothered to death,” said an officer of Bhowanipore police station.

Sarkar, a widow, lived on the first floor of the house with daughter Gauri. The daughter returned home from work on Tuesday evening and found her mother lying still on the bed. There was no sign of struggle, prompting Gauri to think that her mother had died a natural death, possibly of hypertension.

The post-mortem, however, proved that the death was homicidal in nature. By then Gauri discovered that gold jewellery worth over Rs 6 lakh was missing from the house.

The first clue to the killer’s identity that the sleuths came across was from Sarkar’s cell phone. “A woman who was a friend of the victim told us she had called Sarkar on Tuesday afternoon. Sarkar told her to call back as she was attending to a guest… someone called Debjani,” said an officer.

From the victim’s daughter the cops learnt that Debjani was a distant relative and a land broker, who would often visit their house.

“We called up Debjani but she denied having visited the Sarkars’ house on Tuesday afternoon. She said she was then in the office of a real estate company near Park Street,” said the officer. A check with her cell phone service provider revealed that she was in Bhowanipore around the time the crime was committed.

When the cops went to her home, her husband said she had gone to her mother’s house in Behala.

“Her mother’s house was found locked. We called up her husband and he said Debjani had shifted her mother to Mona Lisa guest house as the house needed renovation,” an officer said.

The sleuths rushed to the guest house but there her mother said she had “just left” to “buy medicines”.

The cops said a phone call from her husband, who was acting under the cops’ instruction, finally brought Debjani to her Purna Das Road address.

“She was detained when she got off a taxi in front of her home on Wednesday evening and later arrested,” said an officer.

“She admitted to murdering the woman and stealing the jewellery,” the officer said.