The disappearance of the bullet-proof jacket of Hemant Karkare, who was killed during the 26/11 attacks, is turning out to be one of the biggest mysteries for the Mumbai police, which continues to be clueless.
Running from pillar to post, personnel of the elite crime branch of Mumbai police have been sweating to trace the remains of the jacket and have even searched the shops in South Mumbai's Chor Bazar.
Incidentally, J J Hospital sweeper Dinesh Gattar had sprung a surprise last December by saying that he had dumped Karkare's jacket along with the hospital waste.
Recently, acting on a tip-off that the inside material including the steel and iron cast used in the bullet-proof jacket might have been sold to vendors in Chor Bazar, teams of crime branch searched virtually every scrap dealer in the area but without any luck.
While the already red-faced police was maintaining a studied silence over the entire issue officially, sources within the department said that every lead was probed thoroughly so that the jacket of the former Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Karkare, killed by Ajmal Kasab outside Cama hospital during the Mumbai terror siege, could be traced.
The crime branch had registered a case against Kasab, the lone Lashker-e-Taiyba terrorist arrested during the terror attack on Mumbai, for killing Karkare, Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte and Inspector Vijay Salaskar.
Senior police officials, requesting anonymity, opined that the bullet-proof jacket is the first line of evidence which should have been taken into the custody by the investigators.
However, the Mumbai police found this blooper only after the slain IPS officer's wife, Kavita Karkare, filed an RTI plea in which the police admitted that the jacket was not traceable.
The Mumbai police, after facing flak for misplacing the evidence, is looking for traces of the elusive jacket in the narrow by-lanes of the market infamous for trading stolen goods.
Some of the scrap dealers have been questioned if they had come across a particular kind of metal plates that is used in bulletproof vests, the officials said. Gattar had claimed that he had put the blood-laden jacket of Karkare in a garbage bag, along with other bio-medical waste from the hospital by mistake, and sent it for disposal.
"On the night of November 27, after Karkare's body was brought to JJ Hospital for autopsy, I had mistakenly put the jacket along with bio-medical and non-medical waste in polythene bags, which was sent to the Deonar dumping ground for disposal," the sweeper had said in a statement on December 22, 2008.