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The Joshi-Abhyankar serial murders were ten murders committed by Rajendra Jakkal, Dilip Sutar, Shantaram Kanhoji Jagtap and Munawar Harun Shah of Pune, India between January 1976 and March 1977. All the murderers were commercial art students at the Abhinav Kala Mahavidyalaya, Tilak Road, and were hanged for their crimes on 27 November 1983. The group had acquired a poor reputation on their college campus for robbery and drinking.
16 January 1976 – Prakash Hegde
Prakash was a classmate of his killers at Abhinav . His father, Sundar Hegde, ran a small restaurant (Vishwa) behind Abhinav Kala Mahavidyalaya. The group hatched a plot to kidnap Prakash for ransom. On 15 January 1976, the foursome and classmate Suhas Chandak picked up Prakash on a false pretence and took him to Jakkal's tin shed on Karve Road. They forced him to write a note to his father saying that he was leaving home. On the night of 16 January 1976, they gagged him, took him to Peshwe Park which is just meters from Hotel Vishwa. There they strangled him with nylon rope, placed his body in an iron barrel, inserted some stones and dumped the barrel into the Park lake. The next day, they sent a ransom note to his father.
August 1976 – Kolhapur
31 October 1976 – Joshi
Achyut Joshi, from Vijaynagar colony, was attacked on the night of 31 October. The group forced their way into his house, brandishing knives. Joshi and his wife Usha were the only ones at home. After tying the couple's hands and legs, the four strangled Joshi with nylon rope and suffocated his wife. When the Joshis' teenage son Anand arrived home, they stripped him naked and strangled him with nylon rope. The gang then stole several items, including a mangalsutra, a watch and several thousand rupees.
22 November 1976 – Bafna
Yashomati Bafna's bungalow on Shankarseth Road was attacked on the evening of 22 November. However, Bafna and her two servants fought back and the assailants escaped by climbing a barbed-wire fence around the perimeter.
1 December 1976 – Abhyankar
On 1 December 1976 at around 8 pm, the group attacked the Smriti bungalow on Bhandarkar Road in Abhyankar. There were five people in the house: noted Sanskrit scholar Kashinath Shastri Abhyankar (age 88); his wife Indirabai (age 76); their maid Sakubai Wagh (age 60), granddaughter Jai (age 21) and grandson Dhananjay (age 19). The four gained entrance by ringing the doorbell. When Dhananjay opened the door they stuffed his mouth with a ball of cloth, tied his hands and told him to direct them inside the house. The men killed each person by stuffing their mouths with a ball of cloth, tying their hands and legs and then strangling them with a nylon rope. The granddaughter, Jai, was stripped naked and forced to direct them to the valuables in the house before she was killed.
23 March 1977 – Anil Gokhale
Anil Gokhale was the younger brother of a college friend, Jayant Gokhale. On the evening of 23 March 1977, Anil was supposed to meet his brother at the Alka Talkies and was offered a ride home by Jakkal on his motorcycle. He was taken to Jakkal's shed, and strangled with a nylon rope. His body was tied to an iron ladder, weighed down with boulders and dumped into the Mula-Mutha river near Bund Garden.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Madhusudan Hulyalkar led the investigation. On the evening of 24 March 1977, the body of Anil Gokhale surfaced near Yerwada. The police team, led by Police Inspector Manikrao Damame, noticed that the nylon ropes used to tie the body to the ladder were fastened in a manner identical to earlier murders. The police had initially thought the murders were a result of botched robberies, but were soon faced with the fact that they were following a group of serial killers. Cases like these were rare at that time in India, and the police began an intensive investigation to prevent additional deaths. When questioned by police, the four men contradicted each other about their movements in the city over the previous week. Satish Gore (a colleague) cracked under questioning, leaking information about Prakash Hegde's murder and the location of his body. The signatures of strangulation with nylon rope and a specific knot also helped police zero in on the culprits. Further confessions were made by another classmate, Suhas Chandak, who was a witness to the Hegde killing. The killers were apprehended on 30 March 1977.
Shamrao G. Samant, a senior criminal lawyer who had conducted many successful prosecutions for the state government, was appointed special public prosecutor for the trial. The case began on 15 May 1978 in Pune district, lasting more than four months. On 28 September 1978, they were sentenced to death by Pune Sessions Court Judge Waman Narayan Bapat. Their sentences were confirmed by the Bombay High Court on 6 April 1979, and their special leave petitions against their convictions and sentences were dismissed by the Supreme Court on 17 November 1980.
After both the High Court and Supreme Courts turned down their appeals, the accused approached the President of India for a pardon. The pardon was not granted, and the four were hanged at Yerwada Central Jail on 27 November 1983.
Savdhaan India (2012).
- Ramakant Kulkarni, Footprints on the Sands of Crime. MacMillan India (2004), ISBN 978-1-4039-2361-5
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