The arrest of a 40-year-old man who allegedly killed two persons sleeping on the pavement in Mumbai in a span of 15 minutes for no apparent reason has prompted the Mumbai Police to take another look at undetected killings with similar circumstances since 2016.
Suresh Shankar Gauda, the accused, was nabbed within an hour of the cold-blooded killings on October 23.
When police caught up with Gauda, he was having a meal. “He showed no remorse, no emotion whatsoever when we nabbed him,” said a police officer.
According to police, Gauda, who hails from Hassan district of neighbouring Karnataka, made his living in Mumbai by collecting scrap material from garbage dumps.
The murders took place during evening hours when the streets in central Mumbai are far from deserted.
The CCTV footage purportedly showed Gauda, in a pair of shorts and a black shirt, walking on the pavement near the Byculla fruit market with a polythene bag in his hand. Around 7.50 pm, he was seen smashing the head of a man, who was sleeping by the roadside, with a paver block and walking on.
The next victim was a man sleeping near gate no. 14 of the state-run J J Hospital, one km away. At 8.05 pm, the CCTV footage showed Gauda hitting the man’s head with a stone four times, police said.
At both the spots, there were people nearby, but nobody noticed or intervened.
After receiving calls about the killings, police teams led by senior inspector Subhash Borate, inspector Laxmikant Salunkhe and assistant inspector Avinash Pore followed the killer’s trail from the CCTV footage.
Around 9 pm, Gauda was found sitting next to a hand-cart under the JJ Flyover, eating a meal of dal-roti and rice which he was carrying with him in the polythene bag, said a police official.
He was arrested immediately as the CCTV footage left no doubt about the killer’s identity, the official said.
During interrogation, Gauda showed no remorse. He did it because he wanted to, he told the police, the official said.
An investigation revealed that he had been arrested for the murder of a man sleeping on the pavement in 2015 in Kurla area, but was acquitted for want of evidence.
“We are now reviewing all such undetected cases of murders on pavements or streets since 2016,” said a senior police official.
The killings reminded of Raman Raghav, arrested in 1968 for a string of murders of homeless people on Mumbai streets, said Ramesh Mahale, a retired assistant commissioner of police.
As Gauda has shown no remorse for the killings, he might have some psychological issues, but it should be proved in a medical examination, said Mahale.
Forensic psychologist Deepti Puranik said the accused’s profile fits the type of ‘spree killer’. He apparently did not have any “emotional cooling” between the two murders and for him they would be part of a single event, she said.
Such a person may remain in the same emotionally cool mental state for months, she added.
“He certainly is a disorganised offender, as he was allegedly not carrying any weapons and used a pavement stone to kill,” Puranik said, also noting that the victims were not known to the accused.
The triggers for such random acts of violence could be many, including a psychological disorder, traumatic brain injury or a childhood event. The accused may have been on a ‘mission’ to kill individuals who he believes do not deserve to live, she said.
In 2017, the city witnessed the murder of five people, who all had their heads smashed in suburban Bandra. A 26-year-old labourer working for a catering firm was arrested in the case, said a police official.
A serial killer, who went by the name ‘Beer Man‘, was said to be responsible for the murder of at least six people in south Mumbai between October 2006 and January 2007. Some of the bodies had empty beer cans placed next to them.
A man was arrested in the case, but was acquitted by the high court.