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Murder scan on promoters

The Chakraberia house where 60-year-old Sunanda Ganguly was found dead in a manhole on Monday

A murder case against "unknown persons" has been started in connection with the death of a 60-year-old woman whose body was found on Monday in the manhole of the Chakraberia house where she lived.

Police sources said the probe related to Sunanda Ganguly's death was focusing on two developers - Himangshu Shah, who had bought the Bhowanipore building in 2012, and another promoter whom the cops refused to name.

Shah, who visited Bhowanipore police station on Tuesday and was questioned for hours, denied any role in the death and spoke out against murmurs that he had been pressuring the woman to vacate the house.

The second promoter under the scanner was arrested a few years ago in connection with a real estate dispute that had led to two deaths in south Calcutta. Police sources said he had been eyeing the Bhowanipore property before Shah had struck the deal with the previous owner.

Sunanda's body was discovered on Monday morning after a neighbour spotted two legs protruding out of the manhole in the backyard of the house.

The woman, who ran a charitable centre that taught street children free in the house, had been living in a part of the building her in-laws had taken on rent. The Gangulys moved out after the property was sold to Shah but Sunanda refused to leave.

Soon after the body was found, people who were close to Sunanda started saying that Shah, a resident of Sarat Bose Road, and an officer of the special branch of Calcutta police were pressuring her to vacate the house.

The sleuths, while being on Shah's trail, learnt about the other developer, who was making an attempt to buy the property with the backing of a local political leader.

"The developer was helping the victim resist Shah's pressure tactics on the one hand, and, on the other, trying to convince Shah to sell the property saying he could hardly do anything with it if Sunanda refused to move out. He was playing a double game," an officer said.

Sources said the promoter, the political leader and at least two journalists had been in touch with Sunanda.

Senior police officers on Tuesday refused to comment on the findings of the post-mortem. "We will be in a position to say whether it was a murder or not only after we get the post-mortem report," said Vishal Garg, joint commissioner (special task force), who is in charge of the detective department.

Sources said the "suo motu murder case", based on circumstantial evidence, would help the sleuths widen the ambit of the probe.

Officers who had seen Sunanda's body said her hands and head bore injury marks. But it was not clear yet what had caused the injuries.

An officer of the homicide department of the city police spoke of three possibilities - Sunanda was killed elsewhere and her body was dumped in the manhole; she was smothered to death inside the manhole; she accidentally fell into the manhole and died.


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