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Tuesday, July 31, 2001

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Pankaj's 3 accomplices held

By Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar

NEW DELHI, JULY 30. The Delhi police inched closer to unravelling the mystery behind the Phoolan Devi murder when the three absconding accomplices of Sher Singh Rana alias Pankaj, prime accused, were arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police soon after they tried to surrender in a Saharanpur court this afternoon.

While the Uttar Pradesh police claimed the three - Ravinder Singh alias Rajender, Shekhar Rana and Rajbeer - all named by Pankaj as his accomplices, were arrested outside the court where they had gone to surrender, the Joint Commissioner (Crime) of Delhi police, Dr. K. K. Paul, said the arrest was made by a ``joint team'' of the Delhi and Uttar Pradesh police. The Delhi team, he said, was headed by an Assistant Commissioner of Police.

The arrest of the three was as dramatic, if not more, as the arrest of Pankaj in Dehra Dun on July 27. Pankaj had given himself up to the police before some mediapersons at the local Press Club.

His three associates too tried to surrender in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Mr. Umesh Chand Saxena, who refused to entertain their request as there was no case against them in the area. The three were subsequently arrested as they walked out of the court.

The arrest led to the recovery of a white Maruti car, used by Rajbeer to escape from Delhi after Ravinder, Shekhar and Sher Singh had shot Phoolan Devi dead outside her 44, Ashok Road residence on July 25. Besides, the police also recovered a mobile phone and two SIM cards at the instance of the accused.

The Crime Branch of the Delhi police, which during the course of the day recovered two countrymade pistols with five live cartridges from the house of the slain Samajwadi Party MP, are expected to bring the three accused here late tonight.

The three would be interrogated along with Sher Singh, who was today discharged from Safdarjang Hospital, where he had been admitted last afternoon after he complained of vomiting and was found to be having high blood pressure.

Police sources said through exclusive and simultaneous interrogation of the accused, they would try to unravel the conspiracy behind the murder. Meanwhile, police continued questioning Phoolan Devi's husband, Mr. Umed Singh, the Eklavya Sena office-bearer, Ms. Uma Kashyap, and her husband, Mr. Vijay Kashyap, who had gone to the MP's house along with Sher Singh alias Pankaj on the day of the murder.

The questioning of all the suspects is taking place in various offices of the Crime Branch. After initial interrogation at the Chanakyapuri office, Sher Singh was taken to the Qutab Institutional Area office.

Incidentally, police sources here say that since a close relative of Phoolan Devi and a political party were the prime beneficiaries of her murder, putting the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together may take some more time.

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