To early morning-walkers, it seemed the elusive Stoneman had struck again. The sight that greeted them in Shibpur’s Gangadhar Mistry Lane was that of a young man, otherwise unscathed, but with his head smashed in with a huge stone that lay about five feet from the body, smeared in blood.
The sight brought back memories of Stoneman, who had repeatedly struck in Calcutta in the late 80s. More than a decade ago, pavement-dwellers were crushed to death with a stone while they were asleep at night in different areas of central Calcutta.
Like in Shibpur on Tuesday morning, the blood-stained stone would be found a few yards away from the victim.
Like the Calcutta Stoneman, who remains elusive, the Howrah police, too, were clueless about the identity of the killer till late on Tuesday. “The method in which the youth was murdered looks like the killer — or killers — tried to emulate the Calcutta Stoneman,” an officer said.
Howrah superintendent of police Rajesh Kumar, while admitting that the killer was not known, said it was possible that the victim had criminal antecedents and had got into a scrap with his associates.
“We have not been able to identify the victim so far, but a couple of local people claim they had seen him in an argument with four youths,’’ Kumar said. “They left without intervening, as they felt it was a fight among drunk youths. When they saw the body this morning, they immediately called the police and and told them about the argument they had witnessed,’’ Kumar added.
Initial investigations revealed that the victim was about 25 years old and not a local resident. “Five persons have been detained in connection with his killing,” Howrah superintendent Kumar said.
“We are trying to track down the killers. So far, it seems that the murder is the fallout of a fight among some people, probably criminals, but there is no confirmation of this,” he added.
The predominantly middle-class locality was in a panic after the body was found on Tuesday. The area was swarming with police officers. The body was removed to hospital and later sent for post-mortem.
Police dogs have been pressed into service to pick up trails. According to superintendent Kumar: “We first have to establish the identity of the victim and figure out his antecedents. We can then reconstruct the sequence of events up to the killing.”
The police said that the five detained for questioning had provided some leads but it was still too early to say whether they would take them to the killer. However, Howrah cops are keeping their fingers crossed that the trail leads to the Stoneman.