The sensational murders of two Delhi residents at the hands of a money-crazy criminal and his female accomplice in Mumbai beg the question: How many more people has Vijay Palande killed? Vrushali Lad reports.
Two men from Delhi came down to Mumbai at different times, for different reasons. One arrived in the city in 2010, wanting to produce Bollywood films. The other was a senior citizen and the father of a small-time Bollywood actor, and he came to Mumbai to evict the men that his son had let out his houses to.
Both men, unknown to each other till the end, were killed in Mumbai this year. One man, Vijay Palande, 41, killed them for slightly different reasons: while he killed Karan Kakkad, 28, his friend and 'business associate' who wanted to make it big in Bollywood, from motives of jealousy and greed, he went after Arun Tikku, 67, because the feisty old man was the only obstacle to his plans of usurping the prime apartments that Arun owned in Andheri's Oshiwara, a hip neighbourhood in the western suburbs of Mumbai.
Arun Tikku's fate might have been very different if the Mumbai police had acted with alacrity, instead of their customary ineptitude, in another case. Karan's mother Rita had reported her son's disappearance to the police on March 9, and had specifically named Karan Sood (an alias for Palande) and his partner Simran Sood as her son's friends in the city.
Shockingly, the cops did bring Simran in for questioning, but they believed her when she said that she "didn't know any Karan Kakkad."
By then, Palande had already killed Karan on April 5, but sustained questioning could have broken Simran's story, arrested Palande, and Arun Tikku, murdered by Palande and his two associates on April 7, could probably have been saved.
The Kakkad murder
Kakkad used to live in the upscale Oberoi Springfields in Andheri west, where small-time model and actress Simran Sood also resided. Police sources say that Karan may have been involved in betting over cricket matches, which may have given Simran, and hence, Palande, reason to believe that Kakkad was quite rich.
Later, Kakkad purchased a second-hand BMW car, and he was reportedly in talks with a politician (through Palande's contacts) to fund a film project he was working on. According to Palande's recent confession to the cops, however, it turns out that apart from Kakkad's wealth, his growing friendship with Simran, who Palande had reportedly married a few years ago, made him really angry.
It is also being alleged, say cops, that Kakkad did not return a big sum of money he had borrowed from Palande, angering the latter. It transpires that all along, Kakkad knew Palande as Karan Sood, Simran's brother.
Incensed and jealous, Palande killed Kakkad on April 3 in the latter's Andheri home, hacked his body to pieces, then left the city with the body parts in plastic bags. Kakkad's BMW was used to transport the body parts to be thrown in bushes along the Mumbai-Pune expressway.
Palande then parked the BMW at a friend's house in Pune, saying that he was going abroad for a few days.
The Tikku murder
Arun Tikku was outraged when he learnt that his son Anuj had leased out two of the three flats in Samarth Aangan apartment in Andheri west, which Arun owned. On arriving in Mumbai, he realised that the flats had been leased out for two years in the name of a German woman, Levis Braganza, and Palande, and the other in the name of one Dhananjay Shinde, and deposits of Rs 5,00,000 and a month's rent of Rs 30,000 had also been paid.
His first act was to throw out Dhananjay Shinde and his friend who were in one of the flats at the time. Anuj heard of this and, as per neighbours, "had a showdown with his father, after which he left the place in a huff."
The two -- Shinde and his friend -- returned later and killed Arun inside the flat. The original plan had been to bump off Anuj after the leases were signed, so that the flats would automatically fall in Palande's lap through skullduggery.
Arun, the only obstacle to this plan, had to be killed first. If Arun hadn't come to Mumbai then, the Tikku family would have lost its son a few days later.
Who is Vijay Palande?
A man with several aliases and several underworld connections, Vijay Palande first came to Mumbai as a class nine student from his native place near Chiplun, Maharashtra, in the mid-1980s.
Most of his family is now settled in Borivli, in Mumbai's western suburbs. A moderately bright student, he went on to study hotel management at a Mumbai college, nursing a dream to own a chain of five-star hotels and restaurants in the city.
It was during his stint as a manager in Mumbai's upscale Copper Chimney restaurant, that he first met several prominent bookies and businessmen. It is not known at what point Palande started working for gangster Santosh Shetty.
All along, he also maintained an export business. However, his association with the gang resulted in a few contract killings, some of them to appropriate property and wealth.
Convicted of a double murder in 1998, and again in 2002, he jumped parole in 2003, went to Bangkok for a cosmetic surgery to change his features, and returned to Mumbai in 2005.
He now answered to the name Karan Sood in Mumbai -- several of his associates still know him only by that name -- and he even forged a passport in 2006, for which he was arrested. He has been out of prison on bail since 2009.
Meeting Simran Sood in 1998 was a turning point in Palande's career, because she was more than willing to be used to trap rich single men before their properties were usurped. Said a Mumbai crime branch official, "The two married in 1999. But Palande was behind bars for a few years after this. When he was released from prison, he started using Simran Sood to trap gullible rich men for money and property. The two have several crimes to their name."
However, the crime branch is verifying each of the statements made by the accused. "He (Palande) and the girl (Simran) keep changing their story. After claiming that he was her brother, then her uncle, then her neighbour, then a distant relative, she is now saying that he is her husband. All of these claims must be verified. We are also waiting to see if the body remains we found off the Pune expressway are indeed Karan Kakkad's," an official, who is part of the investigating team, said.
Police are also probing the German, Levis Braganza's role in the killings. They suspect that she may have been a honeytrap to lure foreigners.
Murders most foul: A timeline of the twin crimes
March 6, 2012: Karan Kakkad speaks to his brother Anish, telling him that he (Karan) will be meeting a politician who has agreed to finance a film project. His phone is continuously unavailable when Anish calls him later that night.
March 9: Rita (the mother) and Anish Kakkad report Karan's disappearance to the Amboli police station.
March 10: Simran Sood, a friend of Karan's, is called for questioning, but cops let her go after she claims that she doesn't know Kakkad.
April 7: Businessman Arun Tikku is murdered in his flat at Samarth Aangan in Andheri, Mumbai. Neighbours raise an alarm and manage to lock the two murderers, Dhananjay Shinde and a friend, inside the flat, but the duo escapes through a window.
April 8: Vijay Palande is detained for questioning in the Tikku murder case, since he is a tenant of one of the deceased's flats. He denies any involvement with the crime.
April 10: Police arrest Vijay Palande in connection with the Tikku murder. Prior to this, police question Anuj but eventually let him off. However, Palande escapes from the police van while being brought to the crime branch lockup at Andheri, Mumbai.
April 11: Palande is traced to south Mumbai through phone calls he makes to his sister in the city, and is finally nabbed by the Mumbai crime branch from Churchgate in Mumbai.
April 13: Palande admits to another killing during interrogation -- that of Karan Kakkad, on March 6. He gives details of the crime, of how the body was chopped and then disposed of. He also reveals that he parked Kakkad's car at a friend's house on March 9. He also used Kakkad's credit cards to shop in India and abroad. It is revealed from this, that Sood has also used Kakkad's credit cards in Bangkok. Simran too is arrested in connection with the murder.
April 14: Simran Sood reveals that Palande hated her friendship with Kakkad, and that Kakkad was a bookie who also ran an estate agency. Meanwhile, it emerges that she has been Palande's accomplice in several cases, including a 1998 double murder. An aspiring model and actor, she has been a Page 3 regular and the 'honey trap' in Palande's many crimes.
April 16: Police teams hunt for Kakkad's remains as per Palande's directions. They discover a skull and two limbs in a bag. The remains are sent for forensic examination a day later.
April 18: Palande reveals that he had married Sood in 1998. He also says that he killed Kakkad because he suspected the latter of being an underworld mole who would eventually kill him.