Driver`s survival, blessing for probe team: Chief IO

Last Updated: Tuesday, July 28, 2009 - 00:10

Mumbai: The driver of a taxi which exploded
at the Gateway of India during the 2003 twin blasts here
turned out to be a crucial witness and helped investigators in
cracking the case in a great way, a top official said on Monday.

"The investigations were greatly aided by the survival of
Shiv Narayan Pandey, the driver of the taxi which exploded at
the Gateway of India, as he told us where he had picked up the
suspects from, their appearance and age," Suresh Walishetty,
Chief Investigating Officer of the case, said.

Expressing his delectation over the conviction of three
accused -- Hanif Sayyed, wife Fehmida and Ashrat Ansari -- by
a special POTA court, Walishetty, who retired as ACP, said,
the conviction was a matter of great elation for all members
of the investigating team.

"We had a team of around 25 officers who spread across
Andheri looking for the family but at that time we did not
know that the accused had boarded the taxi from a location far
off from their home to avoid being traced," he said.

However, another accused Ashrat Ansari lived in the area
and we were able to track him down, he said, adding we nabbed
him while he was leaving his house and took him for

Ashrat, who was initially holding out, broke down when
informed that he would be blamed solely for the blasts and
that he can save himself by revealing the identities of his

"Ashrat revealed Hanif`s address to us but we could not
directly enter the area as it was a slum and anyone new there
would be instantly noticed," Walishetty said.

So, we laid a trap and some of our officials disguised
themselves as hawkers and local traders and managed to slip
into the area and started looking for Hanif and his family,
Walishetty said.

"Finally, when we got to know about Hanif`s place, we
brought Ashrat to verify that we have marked the right house,
raided it and arrested the residents".

The investigating officer goes on to add that they came
to know about another accused Nasir, a resident of Hyderabad,
who had aided the group in obtaining RDX for the blasts and
based on mobile phone calls tracked him to Ruparel college in
central Mumbai.

He was, however, killed in a gun battle with the police.

"Perhaps if we had caught Nasir alive we could have got
more information on other modules and other blasts he was
involved in," Walishetty added.

Containing his disappointment over the probe team not
being given the reward promised by the Maharashtra government,
he said, "Now that the conviction has taken place, hopefully
we will get to see the reward which we were promised by the
state government during investigations".

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First Published: Tuesday, July 28, 2009 - 00:10

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