Mrunal Manmay Dash

A resident of Palaspur village under Chandbali police limits in Bhadrak district has claimed that he had witnessed Sarmistha Rout and her henchmen kidnapping cameraman Manas Swain on February 6.

The police had discovered the body of Manas more than a month after the kidnapping in Nayagarh district. While Sarmistha, the prime suspect in the murder, is still evading arrest, the investigation has been handed over to the crime branch from the Bhadrak police.

Speaking to OTV, Ramesh Patra, the Palaspur resident, said, “Around midnight on February 5, Sarmistha and her associates came to attend a wedding in the village disguised as the Barajatri (baarati). They parked their vehicle outside the village. When Manas approached them, they bundled him into the vehicle and drove off around 5 am on February 6.”

In the melee, Patra claimed he saw some men dragging Manas into the car. “Some locals tried to inquire why they were forcing Manas into their car. Sarmistha said Manas has stolen a valuable camera from them, so they were trying to recover it from him,” Patra said.

Patra said he saw Sarmistha slapping Manas on the face while the latter was being dragged into the vehicle by others.

Police said Manas, being a cameraman by profession, had been hired to shoot the wedding in the village. He disappeared thereafter.

Meanwhile, Sarmistha’s mother urged the police to release her son, Parmeswar who was nabbed by the Chandbali Police from Vijayawada some days back in connection with the case.

Parmeswar has been charged with aiding and abetting his sister Sarmistha in the murder.

She said, “The only link to Sarmistha my son has is the Rs 10,000 money he sent her. It was done on the request of Niranjan Sethi. Parmeswar is innocent and he does not have anything to do with the murder neither did he intend to help Sarmistha in dodging the police.”

Meanwhile, the Odisha Crime Branch has reached Chandbali to probe the kidnapping and subsequent murder of Manas. The sleuths met the Bhadrak SP and discussed the developments in the case before visiting the spot for further probe.

Police have so far arrested five persons, including former Odisha Information Service (OIS) officer Niranjan Sethi, in connection with the brutal murder of the 28-year-old cameraman. However, Sarmistha, who ran a web channel in Bhubaneswar, is still absconding.

As per the cameraman Manas Swain was kidnapped from Bhadrak on February 6 and brought to an old age home run by Sharmistha where he was reportedly murdered. His body was recovered from Badhipatna hills in Rajsunakhala area of Nayagarh on March 12, the police said.