For 10 months that he was on the run after murdering real estate developer Jayant Ajmera’s wife Chetna, their former cook, Ashok Purohit alias Maharaj, refrained from using cellphones, even as investigators tapped nearly 300 phones belonging to his family, friends, acquaintances and PCOs in four states.
Purohit’s luck finally ran out in March after police cornered him in Rajasmand, Rajasthan, but not before he had changed handsets and SIM cards at least seven times.
After fleeing the city with aides Hemant Manoria and Mahendra Singh Rathod, Purohit led the police on a nearly year-long wild goose chase spanning Rajasthan, Gujarat, Mumbai and Uttar Pradesh.
“If any of his contacts stopped answering his calls and he felt that they had been speaking to police, he would immediately discard the phone and SIM card,” said assistant inspector Anil Dhole.
His paranoia would eventually give him away. A month before his arrest, he had met a 16-year-old girl in Lucknow and promised to marry her. Purohit had adopted an alias Rahul Joshi and had forged a voter id.
“In March, he eloped with the minor to Rajasmand and took a house on rent,” said inspector Vinayak Vast. To speak to a local contact, he paid the driver of a private bus Rs 500 in return for using his cellphone, police said.
“The contact alerted us about Purohit’s location after he received the call. When we reached Rajasmand and began show people a sketch of Purohit, we came across the driver and he led us to the rented house,” said Dhole. The minor girl was sent home, police said.
Purohit’s was the final arrest in the high-profile murder in the Ajmeras’ residence in Ghatkopar on May 7 last year. He was fired in February, while Manoria continued to work there. Late in April, two got together with Rathod, a cook working in Worli, to plan out the details of the crime.
“Although, they wanted only to rob the house, they decided to kill Chetna if she resisted,” said Vast. The trio slit her throat and fled with cash and jewellery worth nearly
Rs 1.5 crore. The case was initially investigated by Pant Nagar police and later transferred to Mumbai police crime branch. Inspector Vast, now posted in the Anti-Extortion Unit, then investigated the case.
“The watchman of the apartment complex told us that Purohit and Manoria had entered the building. We found that they lived in Nathpai Nagar, Chembur. When