Three clues Inspector Zende chased to nab Sobhraj in Goa

Retired Mumbai Police Inspector Madhukar Zende, who had arrested ‘serial killer’ Charles Sobhraj on April 6, 1986 in Goa, had three key clues to suggest that the latter was hiding in the coastal state.

‘The Serpent’ had escaped from Delhi’s Tihar Jail in March 1986 after feeding the guards drug-laced food during a “party” in the heavily-guarded prison complex. He then chose Goa as his hideout. However, his love for O’Coqueiro restaurant’s telephone service, a highway restaurant in Porvorim in Goa, led to his arrest from the coastal state.

Speaking to IANS, Madhukar Zende, then Police Inspector of Mumbai, said that it was the “most prestigious” arrest as Sobhraj was wanted in many criminal cases.  

“The Railway police in Maharashtra had arrested one person with a revolver and bomb. While interrogating him, it was revealed that he was connected with Sobhraj. That time, one newspaper had published news that Inspector Zende from Mumbai knew Sobhraj, because he had earlier arrested him in 1971. Reading this, then DGP Suryakant Jog called me and deputed for the operation to arrest Sobhraj,” Zende, going down memory lane, said.

 

He said that Charles Sobhraj’s wife was in America and by contacting her, he was supposed to flee Goa with the help of a duplicate passport.

“We had this information. So I was deputed for this operation. We got our first clue from a person who was arrested in the Railway. Then after reaching Goa we tried our luck to find out the motorcycle he was using,” he said.  

“We also had his motorcycle number registered in Goa. Hence we were trying to get information. I stopped wherever there were ‘Motorcycle taxis’ stands and one fine day one Mapankar (a local person from Goa) had keen observation about this motorcycle, which he told me was of peacock green colour. He gave me another 100 per cent clue that Sobhraj was moving in that area.  Then I told my commissioner to send more officers,” he said, adding that five more police were sent in Goa to arrest Sobhraj.

“I also went to the Central Telegram Office (CTO) in Panaji and checked whether anyone had made calls to the US. One of the staff from there named Menezes from Porvorim told us that foreigners normally don’t call from CTO but they prefer to call from O’Coqueiro restaurant. That was the most important clue given by Menezes from Porvorim,” Zende said, adding Menezes was then rewarded by Mumbai police.

According to Zende, after getting this information he and his other two officers kept watch on visitors of O’Coqueiro restaurant.

“To our luck on April 6, 1986 some foreigners were entering O’Coqueiro restaurant. They were wearing sun hats during night time, so I was suspicious to notice it. Why would anyone wear sun hats during night? I realised that one of them was Sobhraj. We had let him take his position and made some plans following which I pounced on him,” he said.

A Mumbai Police team led by Zende were camping in Goa for almost 5 to 6 days to collect information and nab a serial killer from Goa.

Responding to the question of why they didn’t take help from local police in Goa, Zende said that they were not very sure that Sobhraj would be in Goa.

“Hence we had not taken help from the local police. We were trying our luck. If we were definite then we would have taken help,” he said.

“We got him by mere luck and then I phoned my police commissioner, who told me don’t wait and bring him to Mumbai. Then I had sent one officer to inform the local police. It was a prestigious arrest. There was a dispute about why local police were not informed, but there was provision in law that if you are presenting the accused within 24 hours before court then you need not contact local police,” he said.

He said that as Sobhraj was wanted by Delhi Police in attempting murders of jail staff while escaping, a special flight was sent by them to take him back.

“Special plane was sent from Delhi to pick him, before we entered Mumbai he was picked from Panvel and taken to Delhi,” Zende recalled.

He said that a loaded pistol was found from Sobhraj when he was arrested. “He had tried to pull it, but we overpowered him,” Zende said.

“Sobhraj had rented a bungalow in Goa and when we had arrested him, we found $10,000 concealed in his shoes. He had so much money… we don’t know how he had it, but he had many friends in India,” he said.

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