Pradeep Pattanayak

Even as the mystery surrounding the murder of Manas Swain continues to baffle the police a month after the Nayagarh Cameraman’s body was found at a hill in the district, a witness in the case opened up before OTV on Friday narrating the events and circumstances on the day Manas disappeared. 

Sarat Chandra Panda, a journalist with a web channel in Chandbali having close acquaintances with Sharmistha , owner of Sampoorna TV, told OTV that around 10 pm he was at Chandbali market in Bhadrak district when came in a van and stopped near him.  

There were four others inside the car—a woman and three youths, he said. “Sharmistha asked me for direction to a marriage venue in Palaspur village where they were heading. Manas was assigned to shoot the wedding. They drove away after I guided them," Panda said. 

"The next morning I received a call from Sharmistha asking me to accompany her to collect a camera memory card from Manas which I did. Meanwhile, I saw Manas returning along with his associate cameraman Debasish Jena after the shoot. We were waiting in the vehicle near the entry point of  Palaspur village. Seeing Manas, Sharmistha, stopped him and asked about the memory card," said Panda. 

"Manas told her that he had kept the card in Bhubaneswar. Hearing that, Sharmistha slapped him, asking him to come with her. Without a word of protest, he (Manas) got into the van," added Panda. 

Panda claimed that he and Debashis had given the same statement before the magistrate on Thursday. 

While the police are still clueless about the prime suspect Sharmistha so far, they are also yet to track down the four others who had accompanied her to Nayagarh. 

Sources said one of the four suspects, Deepak Behera, was continuously briefing Sharmistha about Manas’s movements. 

Three squads of Chandbali police and Commissionerate Police have been formed to track down the suspects.
Significantly, following the arrest of three accused in the case on March 12, the Chandbali police had raided Sharmistha’s house in Aul area in Kendrapara district. But she managed to give the police a slip. There are talks that a police team has left for Delhi on her trail. 

Back in Bhubaneswar, the Airfield police in Bhubaneswar has collected footage captured in CCTV cameras installed near Dayal  Ashram, an elderly care home operated by Sharmistha. It is suspected that Manas had been done to death in the Ashram.

The cops have seized a hard disc that contains a week’s data of the Ashram. Chintamani, a CCTV technician who helped police in retrieving the hard disc, said he was unaware of the contents of the hard disc. 

Manas, a resident of Godipokhari village in Ranpur area of Nayagarh went missing on February 7. 

Acting on the missing report lodged by Manas's family members, the police had zeroed in on Bhagyadhar Nayak, the driver of the car in which Manas and others had travelled. 

During interrogation, Nayak had spilled the beans following which the Chandbali police had recovered Manas' body from Badhipatna hills in Rajsunakhala area of Nayagarh on March 12.

During the course of the investigation, police have so far arrested six accused in connection with the murder. 
Meanwhile, ACP, Special Squad, Commissionerate Police, Sanjeev Satpathy on Friday said that the Chandbali police had sought help to crack the murder case. “Both the units are investigating the case. A special squad has also been formed to nab the wanted suspects,” said Satpathy.

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