Mumbai: The Maharashtra Police have found that the mobile phone of Mansukh Hiren, owner of the explosives-laden Scorpio found outside industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s residence, was active in two locations of Vasai, 14 kilometres apart, within a mere 15 minutes, ThePrint has learnt.
Sources in the Maharashtra Police told ThePrint that this was on the night of 4 March when Hiren disappeared. The next day, his body was found at a creek in Thane district neighbouring Mumbai.
According to a source, the mobile phone’s last location was the Tungareshwar National Park before it went off. Hiren’s body was found at 10.12 am on 5 March at Mumbra creek in Retibunder. The phone is yet to be recovered.
“Hiren’s phone’s last two locations, before it was switched off late on the night of 4 March, were in Vasai,” said the source familiar with the investigations.
“The phone’s second last location was in Vasai city but surprisingly, in the next 15 minutes, its location had shifted to a spot at the Tungareshwar National Park lying 14 kilometres away,” the source added.
“It is just not possible for anybody to cover the two locations on foot or by vehicle in such a short time considering the topography involved.”
The source added that this could have been an attempt by possible assailants to cover their tracks. “It is being verified if the assailants, who are yet to be identified or tracked, had used technology to manipulate or mask the mobile tower location data, to thwart the probe from reaching them,” the source said.
The Maharashtra Police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) is conducting the probe into Hiren’s death, which is being monitored by its chief additional director general Jai Jeet Singh and deputy inspector general Shivdeep Lande. ThePrint reached Lande through phone calls but there was no response.
The Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, also known as Tungareshwar National Park, is located at Palghar in Vasai and is spread across 85 sq km.
The probe so far
The ATS has so far carried out multiple ‘crime-scene recreations’ in the arc between Mumbra creek and the two locations in Vasai. Police have recorded the statements of a few people in connection with Hiren’s last whereabouts but have ruled out their involvement in the case.
Police are also looking to track down the buyer of a branded white face mask, which was not Hiren’s but was found on his body along with four handkerchiefs that were stuffed in his mouth. It is suspected that the handkerchiefs were meant to prevent the ingress of water inside the body to prevent it from bloating and then coming ashore.
Police are also awaiting the forensic findings on the viscera test and clues from the autopsy video recordings to determine the exact cause of death.
The Thane Police had registered an accidental death report complaint after Hiren’s body was recovered. On 7 March, the Maharashtra home department directed the ATS to take over the alleged suicide case.
Hiren’s wife Vimala had, however, alleged that Hiren was murdered and that he did not commit suicide as claimed by police. In her statement to police, she claimed that she has a “strong suspicion” that senior Mumbai Police officer Sachin Waze could be involved and sought a thorough probe.
Based on Vimala’s statement, the ATS registered a case, against unidentified people, under sections including those related to murder, criminal conspiracy and causing disappearance of evidence of offence against unidentified persons. Waze and his lawyers have since rejected the allegations in courts.
Waze, who has since been suspended by the Mumbai Police, had Monday filed a habeas corpus petition in the Bombay High Court challenging his arrest by the NIA in connection with the recovery of the SUV near Ambani’s house. The petition also said that the allegations made by Hiren’s wife, blaming Waze for her husband’s death, were “false”.
The explosive-laden SUV was found abandoned near Antilia on 25 February. Hiren had registered a complaint with the police after the SUV went missing from the Airoli-Mulund Bridge on 18 February. The NIA took over the case related to the explosives’ recovery on 8 March and arrested Waze for his alleged role on 13 March.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)
Abhishek Sharan is a Mumbai-based independent journalist
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