Fourteen months after his arrest for plotting the murder of a friend who had tried to woo his girlfriend, Ranvijay Rathore on Monday escaped from Alipore court, despite a heavy cop cover.
Just then, a hundred yards away, the top brass of the South 24-Parganas police was huddled in a crime conference at Bhabani Bhavan.
Rathore, son of a south Calcutta businessman, had allegedly conspired with crimelord Rashid Alam, alias Gabbar, to murder Sanjiv Jhulka, alias Bunty, on May 23, 2001, near a Tiljala restaurant.
They had allegedly dumped the body on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass. Rathore had surrendered after nearly a month-long cat-and-mouse game with the police.
The trial of the Bunty murder case is proceeding in the first fast-track court of Alipore. Rathore was to have appeared before the judge on Monday.
On his arrival in court, Rathore told constables escorting him that he was feeling “unwell” and sought permission to go to the toilet. Three policemen escorted him to the toilet and waited outside.
“After 15 minutes, we knocked on the door to check why he was taking so long. When there was no response, we pushed open the door. Rathore was not inside and a bar on the window was broken,’’ said a constable who was part of the South 24-Parganas police escort team.
In a bid to blame the escape on the condition of the court toilet, the constable added: “The grille was half-broken, making it easy for Rathore to escape.’’
The constables fanned out on the court premises and in the surrounding areas. With no trace of Rathore, they alerted superintendent of police, South 24-Parganas, D.K. Ganguly.
On Monday evening, additional superintendent of police Rajesh Singh said a manhunt had been launched for Rathore. “He could not have staged the escape without help,” added Singh.
“We have detained Rathore’s brother, who had gone to Alipore court to meet him.’’ Their Ballygunge Circular Road residence is under vigil round-the-clock.
The South 24-Parganas police have sought the help of their Ballygunge counterparts to tap the Rathores’ telephone line because they suspect “the young man will definitely call his parents’’.
Rathore, Bunty, Gabbar, Clive Francis Brookes, alias Fatman, Nishat Pandey, alias Lucky, Trisha Roy and Shabnam were a group of friends who hung out together, often in night clubs and restaurants.
After Bunty’s death, investigations revealed that Rathore’s girlfriend, Trisha, had “become close” to the victim, sparking trouble in the gang. Police said Rathore then complained to Gabbar about this. Following this, Bunty fell out with Gabbar and broke out of the group.
Gabbar and Rathore then decided to warn Bunty to steer clear of Trisha. They called him to a Tiljala restaurant on May 23 last year.
But things spun out of control after an argument broke out while they were driving back. Gabbar and Fatman apparently shot Bunty from point-blank range, dumped the body on the Bypass and abandoned the car in the Taltala area.
Rathore surrendered, while Gabbar was arrested on December 10, 2001, from a club in Kankurgachhi.