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Former chemist who killed Punjab drug officer was ‘psychotic and depressed’, say police

Accused Balwinder Singh’s shop was shut more than a decade ago after drug officer Neha Shoree cancelled his licence.

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Chandigarh: The 48-year-old former chemist shop owner, who killed a drug officer before committing suicide Friday, was “psychotic and depressed” who seems to have carried a grudge for way too long.

Neha Shoree (36), who was working with the Punjab government’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wing, was shot dead in her office Friday by Balwinder Singh whose chemist shop was shut down on Neha’s order more than a decade ago. Neha’s office is in Kharar, nearly 20 km from Morinda where Balwinder stayed.

Soon after killing Neha, Balwinder shot himself too, police said.

While the police are still trying to find out the real motive behind the murder, according to the most plausible theory, the accused seemed to have carried a grudge against Neha for over ten years after his shop was shut, and had meticulously planned her murder.

“The accused had procured a license for a weapon on 11 March. The next day he bought the revolver that he used to commit the crime. He visited Neha’s office on at least two earlier occasions to carry out a survey of the office”, said Bhagwant Singh, Station House Officer (SHO), Kharar city.

Also read: This doctor has single-handedly changed Punjab’s approach to its drug problem

‘He was depressed and psychotic’

The police said that Balwinder used to run a chemist shop in Morinda, which was shut down following a raid by Neha and her team in 2009. Neha’s team had found that Balwinder was selling habit-forming drugs. During the raid, at least 36 banned drugs were recovered from the shop. His pharmacist’s license was subsequently cancelled, police said.

“After his shop was shut down, Balwinder started running a hospital in Morinda, but the project failed. Then he started working for a large chemist shop in Kurali. From what his family is saying, he seems to have not been able to get over the raid at his shop. He was an introvert, remained quiet, and did not speak to anyone. No one really knew that he was thinking of killing Neha. He was depressed and psychotic”, said SHO Singh.

“It is rare but this is a crime where the accused took ten years to take revenge. We are, however, investigating two possible angles. There is a possibility that Balwinder had applied for restoration of the licence and if Neha Shoree, as the head of the drug licensing authority, Kharar, was not considering it. Second, Balwinder could still be facing a criminal case following the raid at his shop and Neha could have been a prosecution witness. These facts are still being gathered,” said Singh.

According to police, Balwinder belonged to a family of former servicemen. His eldest daughter is pursuing MBBS in Ukraine while his son runs a video games’ parlour in Morinda. His youngest daughter is studying in Class XII.

Murder was planned in advance: Police

Neha was posted as the in-charge of the zonal drug licensing authority in Kharar. Her husband is a regional head of a specialised branch of a leading bank in Panchkula, where the family lived. The couple had a two-year-old daughter.

The police said the murder was planned well in advance and initially Balwinder did not seem to have any intention of killing himself. However, he did so after he realised he could not escape from the spot, police said.

Balwinder entered Neha’s office at around 11.40 am Friday and shot at her from point blank range. He rushed out of the building, but was intercepted by the staff, who ran behind Balwinder after they heard gunshots. Neha’s four-year-old niece, who had accompanied her to the office, was the witness to the entire incident, police said.

Balwinder tried to escape on his motorctycle parked outside Neha’s office, but could not start it and by that time he was surrounded by the staff and passersby. He brandished his revolver and threatened to kill those stopping him. In the melee, suddenly he shot himself in the chest and head. He died on the spot, police said.

Neha, who was shot in the chest, was rushed to the hospital where she was declared brought dead.

Police said that Neha and her team’s raid in 2009 at Balwinder’s shop was part of an intensive statewide crackdown launched by the then health minister of Punjab Laxmi Kanta Chawla. During Chawla’s three-year (2007-2010) stint as the health minister, hundreds of chemist shops especially in rural areas were shut down for allegedly selling habit-forming drugs to addicts.

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  1. Tragic. Brings to mind an incident some months back when a lady town and country planning official who was trying to demolish an unauthorised hotel structure in Himachal was shot dead by the young owner, himself half crazed by economic pressures.

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