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Former lieutenant on killing spree

Chandigarh: A 45-year-old ex-serviceman walked into a Haryana nursing home early on Tuesday and bludgeoned a female attendant to death in what would be the first of six seemingly unconnected murders before he was finally caught, a bloodstained iron rod in his hands.

Two women and four men lay dead, all of them murdered between 2am and 4.30am, by the time police in Palwal tracked down the alleged killer, Naresh Dhankar.

Sources said Naresh, who served as a lieutenant in the army before taking voluntary retirement in 2003, could be mentally unstable.

An officer said Naresh attacked the police team that intercepted him a couple of hours after the body of the last victim was found around 4.30am. "The policemen had to use force to overpower him," the officer added.

He was later admitted to Faridabad's Badshah Khan hospital in an unconscious state.

"It is very difficult to commit any motive at this stage. The accused was caught with an iron rod with blood all over it. We have CCTV footage that confirm he had entered the nursing home premises with an iron rod," said a senior police officer investigating the case.

Police sources said Naresh, a resident of the Omaxe City residential society in Palwal's Sector 2, first went to the private nursing home where he attacked the attendant around 2am. He then killed a woman patient identified as Anjum.

"We were informed about a battered corpse found outside a hospital. By the time we reached the spot, information about another murder (Anjum's) reached us. This time, however, we had the CCTV footage and knew the killer," said Ashwini Kumar, the officer in charge of Palwal police station.

A police source said search teams were sent out immediately with a description of the suspect. "Barriers were set up and men were sent on foot to make a thorough search of the markets and streets."

By the time the police finally intercepted Naresh, around 6.30am, he had four more victims for the night. "Two of the victims were guards, one of them employed by an engineering workshop and the other at a market," said a police officer.

"It appears he was in an insane fit of rage and killed whoever came across him on the streets, though we are yet to ascertain why he attacked the woman inside the hospital. All the other murders happened on the streets," the officer added.

Apart from Anjum, the other victims have been identified as Munshi Ram, Sitaram and Khem Chand from Palwal and Subhash from Firozabad. The nursing home attendant's identity has not been disclosed.

According to preliminary investigations, Naresh is married but his estranged wife lives with their son at her father's house. Naresh, youngest of five brothers born into a family of farmers in Faridabad's Machgar village, had served as a lieutenant in the army.

In 2003, he opted out on medical grounds under a voluntary retirement scheme. Three years later he got a job in the Haryana government's agriculture department.

"A couple of months back he had been booked for assaulting an on-duty police officer. We are trying to find out whether there were similar cases and also why he left the army," a police officer said.

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