Laundry Tags Helped Mumbai’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ Resolve Quadruple Homicide Case


Set off Warning: Mentions of violence, homicide

On the morning of 23 October, 1967, a milkman on his regular rounds got here to ship milk on the residence of Muhamed Siddique Choonawala — an area businessman and managing director of M/S Automobile Mart — on the ‘Temple View’ constructing on Hughes Street in Gamdevi, Bombay [Mumbai].

Regardless of knocking on his door many instances, there was no response. Busy together with his rounds, the milkman left the milk to a neighbour. After a while, Usman, the watchman of Choonawala’s M/S Automobile Mart, got here to ship milk bottles at his residence. As soon as once more, he rang the bell however no response was forthcoming. In the meantime, the cook dinner Sayed Ahmed, who was sleeping within the widespread passage, wakened and noticed smoke popping out of the home windows of the flat.

As Mumbai-based journalist, creator and native historian Dhaval Kulkarni notes in his latest thread on X (Twitter), “The principle door of the flat was barely ajar and he went in with Usman. They noticed hearth within the passage resulting in the kitchen. This hearth in newspapers and garments was doused utilizing buckets of water. As soon as the hearth subsided, they have been terrified to see human legs below the newspapers in a scorched situation. The watchman ran to the close by Gamdevi police station and knowledgeable PSI (Police Sub-Inspector) Shivaji Deshmukh, who was on responsibility.”

Quadruple murder case in Bombay
Choonawala household picture (L) and Temple View constructing entrance (R)

What adopted was a gory quadruple homicide case, the primary within the then Bombay, and a outstanding investigation led by Bombay Police [now Mumbai Police] CID deputy commissioner Vaidyanath Someshwar Sami, the daddy of legendary singer Usha Uthup.

Popularly generally known as the Bombay Police’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’, Vaidyanath Sami and his officers caught the culprits of his horrific crime utilizing the laundry mark (tag) of burnt items of clothes discovered on the scene of this horrific crime.

Right here’s how they solved this case.

Discovering the laundry mark

Right here’s how Dhaval describes the crime scene, “Deshmukh and his staff rushed to the scene and noticed that the fuel pipe within the kitchen was unfastened. He therefore went to the kitchen and closed the fuel connection. He discovered 4 our bodies within the flat with a number of stab wounds.”

“The our bodies had been lined with newspapers and garments, and it appeared that an try was made to set hearth to the our bodies and the flat as properly by opening the fuel pipe. The bed room was ransacked, and money and jewels have been lacking,” he goes on so as to add.

The victims have been Choonawala, his spouse Roshan, four-year-old grandson Shajitkhan [ also spelled Sajid Khan], and their home assist Annie Fernandes. All 4 of the victims have been stabbed to dying.

In line with The Queen of Indian Pop: The Authorised Biography of Usha Uthup — written by Vikram Kumar Jha and translated by Srishti Jha, “[Mohammad Siddiqui] Chunawala was a giant businessman and his homicide had put the Gamdevi Police Station in a deep shock. Curfew was enforced within the space below the police station’s jurisdiction. In the end, seeing no developments on this puzzling homicide case, the inspector of the Gamdevi Police Station known as [DCP] Vaidyanath Sami and communicated the gravity of the state of affairs. He requested the latter to assist in the investigation.” [*both the ‘Choonawala’ and ‘Chunawala‘ spellings have been used to describe the businessman murdered in this case*] 

Following this request, DCP Vaidyanath dispatched his officers to the scene.

Vinayak Vakatkar was a legendary officer within the Bombay Police crime department. His circumstances and investigations made it to the newspapers and the works of native crime writers. Vakatkar ultimately retired as an assistant commissioner of police. PSI Tatyasaheb Gaud retired as an ACP. An ace investigator with the Bombay Police, he was additionally a prolific author in Marathi.

Police solve murder case

In establishing the sequence of occasions previous the homicide, they discovered that on the day of the homicide, Choonawala had come again from the Radio Membership at Colaba together with his spouse and grandson round 9 pm, and about half an hour later, that they had their dinner. Nonetheless, as they have been scanning the crime scene, the officers discovered one thing that caught their consideration.

As Dhaval explains, “The officers discovered a blood-stained shirt below the mattress. It had the laundry mark AI Z with some letters earlier than Z being lower. One other fabric discovered within the flat had the AI SBH laundry mark. Nonetheless, all the opposite garments present in the home had the J MSC laundry mark, making it evident that the shirt and fabric belonged to the assailants.”

“Some fingerprints have been additionally detected on surfaces just like the fridge within the eating corridor. A blood-stained knife was additionally discovered. Nonetheless, the fingerprints didn’t tally with these of the deceased or with the criminals within the information of the police,” he provides.

Catching the culprits

After discovering the items of garments discovered on the crime scene, Inspector Vakatkar situated 12 laundries within the metropolis which used this laundry mark. On 24 October, the police lastly zeroed in on the American Categorical laundry at Khetwadi and situated its proprietor Shenolikar.

He promptly instructed the PSIs Goud and Dudhat that the ‘AI SBH’ and ‘AI Z’ laundry marks belonged to his laundry, and the 2 male clients whom they belonged to stayed in the identical locality.

As Dhaval notes, “That they had stolen money, gold and pearl ornaments, and wristwatches price Rs 10,000. Their fingerprints tallied with the possibility prints discovered on the scene of the crime. That they had discarded the blood-stained garments and worn the washed garments of Mr Choonawala.”

To resolve any crime, nevertheless, the police want to ascertain a motive.

In line with the police, Hussain was Choonawala’s driver and had been fired from his place. Hussain believed that Choonawala nonetheless owed him dues for working additional time, and many others. Choonawala argued that every one dues had been settled. Throughout this argument, Hussain’s cousin Asad was additionally current. The argument with Choonawala escalated and shortly the cousins dedicated the homicide. 

“They [cousins] later lower the dhobi mark from their blood-stained garments to disguise their identification, set hearth to garments, newspapers, and many others, and opened the fuel connection,” explains Dhaval.

For his or her crimes, Hussain and Asad have been sentenced to dying by a principal periods choose on 4 November 1968. In lower than two weeks, the police had nabbed the culprits and a courtroom discovered them responsible and sentenced them. This outstanding quadruple homicide case was among the many final circumstances of DCP Vaidyanath Sami’s illustrious profession.

Murder case fingerprints
Fingerprints of the culprits

A quick be aware on DCP Vaidyanath Sami

Throughout his tenure within the Bombay Police, which ran for greater than three a long time, DCP Vaidyanath Someshwar Sami solved many mysteries in ruthless legal circumstances. 

Curiously, nevertheless, he had by no means imagined that he would be part of the police power.

Born on 21 November, 1908, within the then Bombay, Vaidyanath got here from a wealthy lineage however humble beginnings. Though he was a descendent of Sir Kumarapuram Sheshadri Iyer, a long-time Dewan of Mysore, his father Someshwar Iyer labored for a very long time on the Bombay Tram Firm earlier than shifting to the then Mysore the place he endured severe monetary difficulties.

To assist his household, Vaidyanath went to search out work in Bombay after graduating from St Joseph’s Faculty in Bengaluru. He labored odd jobs as a display screen puller for the Opera Home theatre and an insurance coverage agent earlier than he joined the police power in 1931.

The turning level in his profession got here in 1939 when he was made a part of Bombay’s CID. This was carried out by senior officers within the police division who have been impressed by “his attentive and devoted work ethic”, in accordance with the e book Jha cited earlier on this article.

Murder case
DCP Vaidyanath Sami

“He was related to the Bombay Police’s crime department for 28 years and retired as deputy commissioner in the direction of the top of his profession. His picture within the Bombay Police was that of an inconceivable and, but, clever officer,” notes Jha.

He was an investigative policeman within the truest sense. As Jha writes, “Whereas researching a case, Sami would usually go to the native tea outlets and salons on avenue corners.”

“He believed that an investigation was like searching with deep endurance. One has to maintain one’s sixth sense in an entire state of alertness. Through the quest, he would additionally absolutely utilise Bombay Police’s Fingerprint Bureau and the Police Canine Squad. He positioned informers in nearly all of the colonies within the then Bombay, He would solely relaxation as soon as he had sufficient proof in opposition to the accused in order that they wouldn’t get away within the courtroom for the dearth of it. Nonetheless, he was in opposition to the follow of third-degree torture of criminals as he discovered it fairly inhuman,” the e book provides.

All through his profession, he solved many high-profile circumstances together with the Turf Soda Manufacturing unit homicide case, the then Bombay’s Central Financial institution theft, Lloyd Financial institution theft case, Kuldeep homicide case, and the Bombay Home theft case, amongst others.

He would discover clues from essentially the most surprising sources like within the Bombay Lloyds Financial institution theft case, which he solved with the assistance of a clue given by a schoolgirl or an unclaimed automotive parked on Mohammad Ali Street within the then Bombay’s Central Financial institution theft case. 

He was actually a Sherlock Holmes of his time.

(Edited by Pranita Bhat)

Photographs courtesy Mumbai Police: Urbs Prima in Indis (Images of the officers), Dhaval Kulkarni (Images of the constructing) and Deepak Rao (Images of the fingerprints, the Chunawala household and the 2 accused) and The Queen of Indian Pop: The Authorised Biography of Usha Uthup by Vikas Jha (Photograph of Vaidyanath Someshwar Sami in a police uniform)

Dhaval Kulkarni’s thread on X (previously generally known as Twitter)
‘The Queen of Indian Pop: The Authorised Biography of Usha Uthup’ by Vikas Kumar Jha, Translated by Srishti Jha; Revealed by Penguin Ebury Press on 7 February 2022