A suspect arrested from Varanasi on Monday allegedly told the police that artist Hema Upadhyay, whose body was found in a carton in suburban Mumbai on Saturday, owed him and his allies Rs five lakhs for fabrication work and was delaying payment, according to reports.
However police are not fully ruling out other motives behind the murder of Hema and her lawyer Harish Bhambhani even as an Indian Express report, quoting forensic experts, indicated that the two may have died of injuries to their bodies and not of strangulation as earlier thought.
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The UP special task force (STF) and the Mumbai police jointly launched an operation to pick up Shivkumar 'Sadhu' Rajbhar (25) from Varanasi and allegedly retrieved 21 debit/credit cards belonging to Hema and Bhambhani, according to the Times of India.
The Express report said both Hema and Harish "suffered contusions on the body that could have led to their death". However, results of the chemical analysis are yet to arrive.
The Crime Branch had detained Hema's estranged, artist husband Chintan Upadhyay for over 24 hours and questioned a pickup truck driver, who had allegedly dumped two boxes in a drain in Kandivali in Mumbai on Saturday thinking that it contained broken antiques, according to NDTV.
The bodies of Hema (43) and Bhambhani (65), their hands and feet tied with ropes, were recovered from a drain in suburban Kandivali on Saturday night. The bodies were stuffed in two cardboard boxes. Their samples have been sent for chemical analysis and their autopsy reports are awaited, the senior offical told PTI.
"As per our probe, their bodies were transported in a tempo from suburban Juhu to Kandivali (W)," said DCP (Detection) Dhananjay Kulkarni. Also, police on Saturday recorded the statement of the watchman at Hema's apartment in Juhu Tara Road and her domestic servant Lalit Mandal.
According to police, Hema's domestic help had filed a missing complaint at Santacruz police station on Saturday. Even Bhambhani's younger daughter Anita had filed a missing complaint at Matunga police station on Saturday. Hema and Bhambhani were missing since Friday evening, said police, adding the watchman of Hema had last seen her on Friday at 11 AM.
Whereas according to Anita, at around 6:30 PM on Friday Bhambhani had left his King Circle home in Matunga to meet Hema. As per police, Bhambhani met Hema at her art studio in Andheri and at around 8:30 PM on Friday. Then he had a word with his wife on phone, after which the Bhambhani family couldn't speak with the latter despite calling him frantically several times.
Police suspect that an unidentified person, but known to the duo, had called the lawyer to give fresh evidence in a property dispute case of Hema. They also strongly suspect that the duo were smothered by the killers.
Meanwhile, Additional Commissioner of Police (North Region) Fatehsingh Patil informed that his team is very close to cracking case but did not divulge anything further.
Police said Bhambhani's car, in which he had left for the meeting, is still to be traced. The Baroda born artist had in 2013 filed a case against Chintan, alleging he painted obscene pictures of women on the walls of their matrimonial home in Mumbai to harass her. Bhambani had represented Hema in the case. (With inputs from PTI)
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