A physically challenged former Tata Steel employee, his wife and teenaged daughter were murdered in their sleep at their Jamshedpur residence in the small hours of Wednesday.
Police suspect someone close to the family executed the killings in cold blood and with almost clinical precision — all three had their throats slit before they could stir out of slumber and cry for help — and had taken the elderly man’s son-in-law into custody for interrogation. He was, however, released later.
Ratan Chatterjee (60), wife Shyamali (52) and daughter Piyali (17) were residents of Tube Baridih Colony in Sidhgora police station area of the steel city. While Shyamali supplemented her disabled husband’s early separation scheme benefits by giving private tuition at home and at a coaching centre in Birsanagar, Piyali was a BCA student at Graduate School College for Women.
The shocking murders came to light around 8.30am — though police believe the three were killed sometime between 2am and 4am — when one of Shyamali’s students came for tuition. The young boy knocked on the front gate, which was locked from inside. There was no response and he went to a neighbour to ask whether his teacher was home.
The Chatterjees’ immediate neighbour Nishad Khatoon had last seen Shyamali locking the gate around 10pm on Tuesday. She accompanied the boy and they knocked again. Concerned she called in other neighbours, some of whom informed Chatterjee’s son-in-law Pralay Das (28), a florist by profession and resident of adjoining Birsanagar.
The youth, who had eloped and married Piyali’s elder sister Sonali (20) two months ago, entered his in-laws’ residence from the back door to find the three bodies. While Shyamali and Piyali were caked in blood on the cot, Chatterjee — who slept on the floor ever since he lost a leg in a mishap a decade ago — was lying lifeless on a provisional bed.
Police were informed. A team led by Sidhgora OC sub-inspector O.P. Topno arrived on the spot for investigations followed by DSP (city) K.N. Chowdhury, forensic experts and a dog squad.
The DSP conceded that they were yet to make any headway in the case.
“Nothing was stolen from the house and there seems to be no prominent motive. A possible love affair involving the younger daughter or a spat between the son-in-law and the elderly couple may have something to do with the case, but nothing is crystal clear yet,” Chowdhury said.
“The bodies have been sent to MGM Medical College for post-mortem. We pressed a team of forensic experts who have collected fingerprints and blood samples. A sniffer dog was also brought. The reports are expected in a week’s time, after which we can say something concrete,” he added.
On why Pralay was grilled, the DSP said there were quite a few solid reasons.
“The modus operandi makes us suspect that someone close to the family is involved. Second, the son-in-law was the first person to see the bodies. Third, the youth had eloped with Ratan Chatterjee’s daughter. Relationships may have soured sometime, somewhere. However, nothing is clear so far and we released him after interrogation,” he said, adding that they were not ruling out a love angle involving Piyali and a third person.
Pralay’s wife Sonali’s statement was also recorded.
Neighbours said the Chatterjees were friendly people. “They came here a year and a half ago and were nice to everyone. We are shocked,” said P. Padma, a local resident.
Khatoon said she had seen Shyamali twice last night and nothing seemed unusual. “Around 8pm, she returned from the coaching centre. Her sister dropped her. Around 10pm, when she was locking the front gate, we spoke briefly. She was her usual carefree self. The morning has left us numb with shock,” she added.