Murder most foul
One particular murder case, which I covered as a young crime reporter in the early eighties, continues to haunt me till this day. In my view the murder had been solved by the Delhi police but for some curious reason was subsequently consigned to the unsolved cases file where it must be gathering dust even now.
My reference is to the killing of Constable Tejpal Singh who was posted as a security guard at the Ashoka Road residence of then Union Minister Bhagwat Jha Azad on January 25, 1981. I was a crime reporter with The Patriot (it closed down some years ago) where I worked for two years and three months. The murder had apparently taken place in the night and since the following day was the Republic Day, the news appeared in most papers as a brief item.
The police version was that an unidentified man had barged into the minister’s house while he was not there and had accosted Tejpal Singh. When the constable resisted his intrusion, he was shot dead from point blank range. The intruder dragged the body to the bedroom and then left. The minister was apparently not in the house when the murder took place and was perhaps in Jaipur or some other place. The Police issued an identity kit portrait (something very new those days) about the killer and a case was registered in the New Delhi district. The identity kit portrait appeared in newspapers the following day.
Every newspaper thereafter nearly forgot about this ghastly murder in which a policeman was the victim. Normally speaking anywhere in the world if a cop is killed the entire force gets into the hunt mode till it tracks down the killer. But this did not seem to be so and the way things were happening, the police obviously was in no hurry to solve the case.
Two or three days later while walking back to my office from the Police Head Quarters in the evening, I bumped into a contact who initially cursed the press for being oblivious about facts surrounding the mysterious death of Tejpal Singh. He also criticized some police officers for trying to hush up the case. Then he dropped a bombshell. “Do you know that not a drop of blood was found at the scene of the crime and how could a man be shot without blood oozing out from his body? Tejpal had been dragged to the bedroom and there was no blood even on the floor along the way’’. This was news to me and no one had mentioned about it.
The very next day, I first confirmed this news with some of the cops who had gone to the scene of the crime on the night of the incident. The case by this time had been transferred to the crime branch but I was determined to pursue it.
I went home and looked at the medical books stacked in a number of cupboards (my both parents being doctors) till I was able to locate Modi’s jurisprudence, the virtual authority on forensic aspects of crime.
A thought had started occurring to me that since there was no blood found on the scene of the crime, there was a possibility that Tejpal Singh was already dead when he was shot. Obviously, a dead man if shot will not bleed. So I ran a story which was carried on the front page and raised the all-important question on whether Tejpal Singh already dead when he was shot. I referred to ante mortem and post mortem wounds as per Modi’s book and talked about the description of the wounds which matched the post mortem description rather than the ante mortem description. A senior police officer I went to did confirm that Tejpal did not bleed and told me that the bullet had pierced his heart, lungs and liver as per the autopsy report and also the ballistic examination of the gun shot to trace the bullet path. It also became clear that intruder theory of the police was to cover up the crime. There was just no intruder as was evident from a dialogue with some policemen involved in the initial investigations.
All this while I was wondering why would anyone kill a constable unless there was a clear motive and what could it be. Did Tejpal Singh know about some secrets or did he invite someone’s wrath for his errant conduct? The answer was not there but it became clear to me that he was shot while he was lying dead. The police theory was misleading as anyone who was shot from point blank range would not end up having the bullet passing through his heart, lungs and liver. This could happen only if a man was lying dead and was shot through the heart from a gun pointing downwards from his heart and through his lungs and liver.
The matter did not end there as I next went and met a senior member of the Forensic science department at Maulana Azad Medical college who on condition of anonymity opined that my hypothesis appeared to be right and he (Tejpal) was shot after he was dead. I asked him why would the cause of death not show in the post mortem. To which he said that if anyone were injected an overdose of a certain drug (I do not wish to name this medicine in public interest) it would not show either in the autopsy or perhaps not even in the viscera report. I carried another story on this. I was subsequently advised by my Editor who had been approached by some powerful people to wait for a while before doing any more follow-ups. No other newspaper followed this up either.
A year later, I talked about this case remaining unsolved but was again advised to go slow on the follow up. I was also told why was it important to write only about one unsolved case when there were so many others. But then Tejpal Singh’s death was always a mystery, which I thought, had been solved and any public disclosure would have led to many kinds of insinuations being made against some influential people.
The funny coincidence in the entire thing was that when I met the then Police Commissioner Pritam Singh Bhindar just before he was replaced by Mr Bajrang Lal in December, 1981, one of his last acts was to give a sewing machine and some compensation to the widow of Constable Tejpal Singh as also that of another Constable Pale Ram who had died in an encounter with some miscreants near the Old Police Lines the same year. I wonder whether, the police will ever declare this case solved. The answer my friend is blowing in the wind…