Artist, lawyer twin-murder: Four suspects held in UP, Mumbai

Mumbai, Dec 14 (IANS) Four suspects in the sensational double-murder of painter Hema Upadhyay and her lawyer Harish Bhambani have been detained by Uttar Pradesh Police and their Mumbai counterparts, official sources here said on Monday.

Acting on a tip-off from their Maharashtra counterparts, Uttar Pradesh Police detained two people in Varanasi, and they were likely to be handed over to Mumbai police soon.

Police also seized some personal belongings of the victims — identity cards, ATM cards and other things — from the suspects, whose identities have not been disclosed yet.

The duo is believed to have helped main accused Sadhu Rajbhar in the murder and disposal of the bodies.

A Mumbai police team has already left for Varanasi to coordinate the investigations and take charge of the accused.

Two suspects were also detained in Mumbai, as TV channels claimed that Sadhu Rajbhar has confessed to the crime. Top police officials, however, refused to comment.

The barely-clothed bodies of Upadhyay and Bhambhani were packed in cardboard boxes, wrapped in plastic sheets and thrown into a large open drain near Dahanukarwadi area in Kandivali West, a suburb in northwest Mumbai, a few days ago.

They were found in the early hours of Sunday with their hands and feet tied.

After investigation, police managed to identify them as Bhambani, 65, who lived in Sion, and Baroda-born artist Hema Upadhyay, 43, a resident of Santacruz.

“According to investigation, the bodies were taken in a tempo from Juhu to Kandivali,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (Detection) Dhananjay Kulkar said on Monday.

Police have questioned the transporter who confirmed that he dumped the two boxes in the Kandivali drain, believing them to contain broken antiques.

The motive behind the murder was not yet clear, but police said Hema and her estranged husband Chintan were in a divorce battle since the past five years.

Police questioned Chintan — who married Hema in 1998 — on Sunday and later allowed him to go.

Two years ago, Hema had lodged a harassment complaint against Chintan of painting obscene sketches on her room walls and, at that time, Bhambani had fought her case.

The bodies have been sent for autopsy and the boxes and plastic sent for forensic examination.

The developments took place after the maid servant of Hema and Bhambani’s family lodged separate complaints after they failed to turn up home as usual on Friday evening.

Hailing from Rajasthan, Chintan and Baroda-born Hema were classmates at the Baroda Faculty of Fine Arts and later made it big in the Mumbai art world.

Hema bagged awards from the Gujarat State Lalit Kala Academy and the (national) Lalit Kala Akademi besides a prestigious national scholarship from the union human resource development ministry.

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