By Quaid Najmi
Palghar, Feb 24 | In a stunning revelation, the Palghar Police on Wednesday contended that the Indian Navy (IN) sailor who claimed to have been kidnapped and set on fire in a forest may have ‘cooked up’ the story as he was in heavy debt.
A fortnight after the tragic death of the IN’s Leading Seaman, Surajkumar M. Dubey, 27, the Palghar Police’s detailed investigations have punched holes into his claims and allegations as per a ‘dying declaration’ recorded by the police before he succumbed to 90 percent burns on February 5 in a naval hospital in Mumbai.
Palghar Superintendent of Police Dattatreya Shinde told mediapersons that from available evidence and CCTVs record in Chennai, Mumbai, Palghar, it appears that the deceased may have ended his own life ostensibly due a huge pile of unpaid loans.
In his ‘dying declaration’ Dube had recounted a sensational story of how he travelled from Ranchi by plane on the night of January 30-31, how after landing at Chennai he was kidnapped by 3 persons, confined for 3 days for a ransom of Rs 10 lakhs before being brought to Palghar, where he was allegedly taken to a forested hillock and set on fire.
“We had formed 10 teams to probe the matter. Lot of things have emerged. We are still investigating how and why he came from Chennai to Palghar, a distance of 1,480 kms,” Shinde said.
Detailing the investigations outcome conducted by the teams led by Deputy SP Dhanaji Nalawade, Shinde said that contrary to his kidnap claims, Dube was captured on CCTV sauntering out of Chennai Airport on January 30 around 10.50 p.m., later having dinner at Hotel Sarvesh, and walking around the Koyambedu bus station there.
The following two days (January 31-February1), he checked into a lodge in Chennai, withdrew money from ATMs in Koyambedu, Arihant Tower, and on February 1 caught a bus to reach Vellore and stayed that afternoon in Popular Lodge before checking out in the evening.
“Both places he registered in his own name. This is confirmed by the lodge staffers and CCTV footages we examined. Its not possible, as he claimed, that he was kidnapped and confined in some unknown location for three days,” said Shinde.
The sailor, working on INS Agrani in Coimbatore, was on 30 days leave but informed his father it was only 20 days, and then claimed to have extended by another 10 days, used a phone with a number not revealed to his family, and other such instances have also emerged.
That evening (February 1), he had called up his cousin Chandankumar Dube, shouted ‘Irfan, Irfan’ imitating the voice of the alleged kidnapper, and then switched off the phone, creating doubts that he was held captive by the so-called ‘Irfan’, but his family members have identified the voice as Dube’s, the officer added.
He repeated the name of ‘Irfan’ again during his statement at the Dahanu Hospital, how he was driven in a SUV from Chennai to Palghar, a journey of at least 25 hours, but his claims didn’t match with the evidence collected.
“Moreover, in Palghar there are two coastal checkposts with 24-hours roadblock, security checks and CCTVs, but none have recorded any such SUV, proving something was amiss in Dube’s claims,” Nalawade said in his probe report.
Around 5.30 a.m. on February 5, he went to the N & Sons Petrol Pump in Talasari, Palghar and purchased 3 litres diesel in 2 plastic bottles. The staff there indicated that a person matching his description had come there, and police are making further inquiries for foolproof verification.
Shinde and Nalawade said that the forested hill of Vavji-Vaijalpada is very treacherous and it is impossible for any person to traverse it with hands-legs tied and blindfolded, beaten and burnt with petrol, but no such evidence came out in his medical examination.
Investigations also confirmed the Palghar Police’s earlier findings that he had piled up debts of over Rs 22 lakh through personal, family, in-laws and friendly loans which he blew up in the stock markets, also tried to get loans from 13 banks, but failed.
“We are making further enquiries. Action will be taken against the bunker which sold him loose diesel unauthorisedly. The entire kidnap drama was meticulously planned by Dube himself given his naval training,” Shinde said.
After tying up a couple of loose ends, Shinde said the Palghar Police was confident of closing the ‘extremely challenging case’ very soon.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at email@example.com)