This was the case of sudden death of Durgesh Wadia, a well known industrialist.
Inspector Nokul Hegde of the homicide squad had been summoned to investigate by none else, the Inspector General! Definitely this was a high profile case.
Durgesh had been a bachelor who lived alone with his servants in his palatial house in the outskirts of the city.
Inspector surveyed the crime scene in silence.
Durgesh’s face and upper part of his body were prostrate on the ornate writing table. His right arm was flung on the table and left hand hanging on his side, lifeless. Apparently, he had been sitting on the chair when the end had come. Eyes were partially closed and a trickle of whitish foam had come out from his half open mouth. His body had an abnormal tinge and face was contorted!
The contents spread on the table were in disarray; three pens, one clip pencil and seven envelopes were lying scattered and a sheet containing ten postal stamps of five rupees each were kept on the left side with one almost hidden under his upturned palm. A lap top lay on extreme right corner with two pen drives. A writing pad, a bunch of paper clips and pins and a table lamp completed the spread.
It seemed that death had come unexpectedly and painfully.
Looking at the body Inspector Nokul thought, “This sure is murder by poisoning; the post-mortem will have to confirm it. But who could have done this? An insider? And the motive? How was it done? ”.
The police photographer did his job, the finger prints were lifted and other routines were done!
Inspector ordered the body to be taken away.
Frowning slightly he looked around the room searching for clues- any tell tale signs which could throw light on the murder.
Dholke, the personal man servant was standing near the doorway. He was with Durgesh for last many years.
Their eyes met.
Inspector grimaced and said “what do you know about this death? Don’t hide anything! Tell me every detail with time!”
Dholke replied, “Sir , I know nothing of this….! Last night Sahaab had taken his dinner at the usual time around 8.30 pm and retired to his room. I had cleaned up and closed the kitchen and gone to bed… must be about 9.40 pm. I have not heard anything during the night. Today morning I came to Sahaab’s room at about 7.30 am to serve him morning tea .. and I saw this…”
His face turned sad. “Sir I don’t know anything else, swear God!”
Inspector’s frown deepened; he stared at him intently. “Did anyone come last night or today morning?”
“Sir, now I recall… Sahaab’s sister, Madam Devi, was here after he had dinner. She must have left late in night….. don’t know when.” Dholke said.
Inspector looked again at the writing table. His instinct was flashing that the answer lay there! With his gloves on, he picked up the pens and the postal stamps. He also scrutinised the envelopes; they were unused. Others were usual. Lap top needed to be seen at the police station.
He turned around, pointing at the pens, postal stamps, envelopes and the pins, ”when were these bought?”
Dholke replied ” Sir, yesterday I bought them from the local stationary shop, post office and put them on the table in the evening…”
Inspector nodded and asked his sub inspector to take the contents to the station.
He closely gave the room once over and left.
Other servants were being questioned separately, a report of which he would get soon. Madam Devi needed to be questioned too.
All servants were to be confined to the house till further orders.
That evening Inspector was in deep thoughts! Postmortem report had come and death by a potent poison had been confirmed. The effect was almost instantaneous! Death had occurred between 5.00 am to 7.00 am.
“That means Durgesh must have been poisoned just before sitting at his writing table or end must have come after he had already sat down”. He pondered!
He went to bed in a thoughtful mood!
Next morning he sent some of the items to the forensic for checking the traces of poison. He called up the lawyer of Durgesh Wadia. Officers had already gone to the local stationary shop and post office.
Personally he went to Madam Devi and questioned her. She had left her brother in a cheerful state the earlier night, around 11.40 pm.
That evening he summoned Dholke to the station.
When he came in Inspector said “you must have seen Sahaab working on his writing table for years. I am putting all the items we picked up from his table yesterday, on my table here. You try to enact how he would have worked….”
Dholke started protesting “ Sir , I am an illiterate person , how can I imitate Sahaab? I can’t Sir… can’t…”
Inspector stared at him, gradually his temper rising, “you will have to do it.. otherwise you know how police can force you..” he grated.
The table was set. Dholke sat on the chair. He scribbled on the writing pad, tore out the paper, folded it and inserted in an envelope and scribbled an address on it. Then he stopped!
Nokul ordered. “Pick up the postal stamps and affix on the envelope, then close it.”
Dholke stammered. “Sir… sir.. can I….. I have some gum to affix the stamps… and close the envelope”
“Do as your Sahaab did…” snarled the Inspector.. “first lick the stamps and affix on the envelope…”
A sub inspector moved forward menacingly with his weapon trained towards Dholke.
Dholke started to pick up the stamps, his face swathed in sweat; he looked around desperately. Then suddenly he collapsed on the floor! The sub inspector moved swiftly and pulled him up and made him sit on the chair.
He started talking incoherently. Inspector Nokul came forward and slapped him hard.
He stopped; then words came out more distinctly.
“ Sir… I have killed Sahaab… I smeared poison on the back of these stamps.. ….I knew Sahaab had the habit of licking them before affixing on envelopes…but it was not my fault………..!” He blabbered on.
Inspector Nokul smiled.
His detection was spot on. Traces of lethal poison were found on the reverse of all postal stamps. The unused stamp partially covered by Durgesh’s upturned palm showed that he had meant to use that! That was the pointer!
The lawyer of Durgesh had confirmed that the Industrialist had made a Will of his estates very recently and a substantial amount had been set aside for Dholke, the loyal servant. Of course the major beneficiary was Madam Devi!
There was opportunity and the motive for Dholke. But who supplied the poison? Were there some persons involved as accessory to murder? This needed further investigation.
There were insufficient proof and facts but their absence was set right by Dholke’s confession! He would never know that the lethal stamps, fear of which made him confess, were substituted by harmless ones by Inspector!
But the murderer had been found!
18th September 2015