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Pradeep Pattanayak

The post mortem report of Manas Swain sheds lights on the brutality the Nayagarh cameraman was subjected to leading to his painful death. 

As per the findings Swain had suffered fractures on his ribs, suggesting he was given a deadly blow on his chest by a blunt weapon, while his spinal cord had been severed which had caused internal bleeding. The multiple internal injuries were well enough to cause his instantaneous death, the chilling facts in the report say.  

Armed with the fresh scientific findings, the Crime Branch, which is investigating the gruesome murder, is now piecing together the sequences by joining the earlier missing dots in order to arrive at a definite conclusion on the events and circumstances leading to the death and the role played by each accused.  So far, five persons, including the prime accused in the case Sarmistha Rout and former OIS officer Niranjan Sethi have been arrested and are presently on Crime Branch remand till April 5.

Moreover, as the investigation progresses, the sleuths have now a clear idea about how Sarmistha managed to dodge surveillance and evade arrest for over one and half months after executing the crime.

Sources privy to the investigation said that following the murder, Sarmistha and her aide Jhuna Bhoi hatched a well-thought out plan to escape law. 

Accordingly, Sarmistha deliberately left her mobile phone at her flat in Bhubaneswar, ostensibly with an intention to thrown the investigation off track and make it difficult to trace her location.

Later, sources said, she loaded two new SIM cards —one from Agarpada in Bhadrak and two from Kolkata—into another phone to remain in contact with her family. 

Following the escape from Bhubaneswar, Sarmistha and Jhuna reached the former’s in-laws’ place at Pulipushi village in Jajpur district on March 7 and spent the next three days there. 

On March 10, they changed the location and went to Sarmistha’s sister-in-law’s house at Purushandha in Bhadrak district. There too, they spent not more than three days.  

On March 13, they boarded on a bus at Kupari in Bhadrak district for Balasore, from where they escaped to Kolkata. After spending some days in Kalyanipur in Nadia district, they went to Mayapur. They managed to stay there with one Asima Das, who is known to Sarmistha’s brother Parameshwar. Thereafter, they again changed their location and went to Jalpaigudi. After falling short of money, the duo returned to Kolkata, before finally deciding to head to Odisha when they ran out of luck.

The police, who was already on their trail by then, swiftly rounded them up from the bus on March 28.

Senior advocate Manas Chand said the police had lost the precious time by making belated arrest of the accused which could cause destruction of evidence.

“Prompt investigation, collection of evidence and timely availability of forensic lab reports bolsters the prosecution case. However, in this case things have been delayed,” said Chand. 

Meanwhile, the Crime Branch is trying to find out the purpose of a signed undertaking wherein the discovery of a memory chip, card has been mentioned along with the permission granted to set Manas free. The undertaking also carried the signature of Manas. 
The Crime Branch has sent the undertaking on a piece of paper to the Handwriting Bureau to ascertain the genuineness of the Manas’ signature. 

From the interrogation of the accused, the sleuths have learnt that Sarmistha and Niranjan Sethi put Jhuna on the job to write the undertaking on which Manas was made to sign. 

However, the police are still clueless regarding the motive behind the heinous crime. During the course of investigation, footage of a short film has surfaced. In the video, Niranjan can be seen appearing in a scene which was shot at the Puri sea beach.  Earlier, it was speculated that the particular footage had been deleted from the short film.

Amid talks of the purported footage having a direct bearing on the murder, the sleuths are trying out to find the facts. For that, they are conducting marathon interrogation of the arrested accused, sources said. 

“It will be challenging for the police to elicit information about the crime from the accused persons,” said former police officer Sarat Sahu.

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