When Justice B. Banerjee delivered the verdict around 2.45 pm on Thursday, Lakshmi Narayan Chakraborty could not hold back his tears. After eight years of being branded a murderer, the court had pronounced him innocent in the Oxytown case.
“From June 1999, I have been harassed on one pretext or the other. Finally, my innocence has been proved,” Chakraborty told Metro after returning home from Alipore police court.
Chakraborty, around 50, lives next door to the deserted house where the Pal family was found murdered on June 14. He lives with his wife, aged mother and teenaged son. His daughter is taking a nurse’s training course in a private institution.
The world of the private tutor of Sohini Pal, 22, came crashing down in the summer of 1999, with police naming him the mastermind in the gruesome murder of the family of four.
On Thursday, Chakraborty reached court at 10 am and waited anxiously for the final verdict.
When it came, he first called up home to convey the news. And within an hour, the word spread in the entire neighbourhood, singed by one of Calcutta’s most infamous acts of crime.
“There is, however, a tinge of regret. While the police harassed me all these years, the real culprit managed to evade the law and the murder of the Pals has not yet been avenged,” said Chakraborty, headmaster of Mahestala High School and a Higher Secondary examiner.
Summing up the years of living in fear, he said: “Whenever a white car would enter our lane, my children would panic that the police were back to harass me.”
Amitabha Ray, his lawyer, was more belligerent. “We are aware that the police had tried to manipulate all the witnesses. But in the end, they failed,” he said, after the Alipore court verdict.
Next door, P-73 Oxytown, unoccupied since June 1999, looks like a haunted house, with its rusty main gate closed to outsiders and the premises shrouded with weeds and shrubs. Neighbours said the Pal house was now happy hunting ground for snakes.
Oxytown, on Thursday, heaved a sigh of relief. “We are glad that Chakraborty has been given a clean chit by the court,” said Nandita Mukherjee, one of the 29 witnesses who had deposed before the court.“But the murder remains unsolved.”
Another neighbour, requesting anonymity, said they had never believed that the teacher could have plotted such a murder.
“It was the handiwork of professional killers who remain elusive,” he said.
Members of the local club said Chakraborty was “a nice human being” and a “good teacher”.