Joshi-Abhyankar serial murders
Dilip Dhyanoba Sutar,
Shantaram Kanhoji Jagtap and Munawar Harun Shah were commercial
art students of the Abhinav Kala Mahavidyalaya, Tilak Road, Pune,
India who committed 10 murders between January 1976 and March 1977,
and were hanged to death on 27 November 1983. The quartet had acquired
a reputation for bad conduct on their college campus. They frequently
robbed and indulged in drinking.
Timeline of events
January 1976 - Prakash Hegde
Prakash was a colleague whose father, Sundar Hegde,
ran a small hotel named Vishwa behind Abhinav Kala Mahavidyalaya. The
group hatched a plot to kidnap Prakash for ransom. On 15 January 1976,
the foursome along with classmate Suhas Chandak picked up Prakash on a
false pretence and took him to Jakkal's tin shed on Karve Road. They
forced him to write a runaway note to his father stating that he was
leaving home. On the night of 16 January 1976, they gagged him and
took him to Peshwe Park. They strangled Prakash with a nylon rope,
placed his body in an iron barrel, inserted some stones and dumped the
barrel into the lake. The following day, they sent a ransom note to
August 1976 -
The gang moved to the city of Kolhapur in August
1976, but were unsuccessful when they targeted the house of a local
31 October 1976
Achyut Joshi from Vijaynagar was attacked on the
night of 31 October. The group forced themselves into his house
brandishing their knives. Achyut Joshi and his wife Usha were the only
ones at home. After tying their hands and legs, the duo killed the
married couple by strangulating Achyut Joshi with a nylon rope and
suffocating his wife. When the Joshi's teenaged son Anand walked in,
he was stripped naked and strangulated with the same identical nylon
rope. After the murders they decamped with the booty – a mangalsutra,
a watch and few thousand rupees.
1976 - Bafna
Yashomati Bafna's bungalow on Shankarseth road was
attacked on the evening of 22 November. They, however, faced
resistance from Bafna and her two servants and escaped by climbing the
barbed wire fence of the bungalow.
1976 - Abhyankar
On 1 December, at around 8 p.m., they attacked the
Abhyankar bunglow Smriti on Bhandarkar road. There were five people at
the house: noted Sanskrit scholar Kashinath Shastri Abhyankar (88),
his wife Indirabai (76), their maid Sakubai Wagh (60), granddaughter
Jai (21) and grandson Dhananjay (19). The four gained entry by ringing
the doorbell. When Dhananjay opened the door, they stuffed his mouth
with a ball of cloth, tied his hands and asked him to direct them
inside the house. The men eliminated each of the members by stuffing
their mouths with a ball of cloth, tying both their hands and legs and
then strangulating with the nylon rope. Their granddaughter Jai, was
stripped naked and forced to direct them to the valuables in the house
before she was killed.
1977 - Anil Gokhale
Anil Gokhale was the younger brother of their
college friend, Jayant Gokhale. On the evening of 23 March 1977, Anil
was supposed to meet his brother at Alka Talkies. Anil was offered a
lift home by Jakkal on his motorcycle. He was taken to Jakkal's shed
and strangulated with the nylon rope. His body was tied to an unused
iron ladder, weighed down with big boulders and dumped into the Mula-Mutha
river near Bund Garden.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Madhusudan
Hulyalkar led the investigation. On the evening of 24 March, the body
of Anil Gokhale surfaced near Yerawada. The police team, led by Police
Inspector Manikrao Damame, realized the nylon ropes used to tie the
body to the ladder had been fastened in a manner identical to the
prior murders. When investigated, the four boys contradicted each
other about their joint movements in the city over the past week.
Satish Gore, a colleague, broke down in the course of police
interrogation and confessed. Further confessions made by another
classmate, Suhas Chandak, who was witness to the Hegde killing. The
killers were apprehended on 30 March 1977.
The case began on 15 May 1978 in the Pune district
and lasted for more than four months. On 28 September 1978 they were
sentenced to death by Pune Sessions Court judge Waman Narayan Bapat.
Their sentences were confirmed by the Bombay High Court on 6 April
1979 and their special leave petition against their convictions and
sentences were dismissed by the Supreme Court on 17 November 1980.
After both the High Court and Supreme Courts turned
down their appeals, the accused approached the President of India for
a pardon. The president did not concede, and the four were hanged at
the Yerawada central jail on 27 November 1983.
- Maaficha Sakshidar (1986) starring Nana Patekar
- Paanch (2003) by Anurag Kashyap
Ramakant Kulkarni, Footprints on the Sands of Crime,
MacMillan India (2004), ISBN 978-1-4039-2361-5.
The Evil and the Dead
It was 20 years ago in September that four youths
were sentenced to death. They were the infamous serial killers who
struck terror in Pune for two years.
Rahul Chandawarkar -
September 6, 1998
The pain is still visible in 74-year-old Sundar
Hegde's eyes. Twenty-two years after his oldest son Prakash (20), was
killed by the infamous serial killers Jakkal, Sutar, Jagtap and Shah
of Pune. Hegde is unable to hid his emotions.
However, he puts up a brave face and philosophizes
“When your times comes, not even God can save you. Prakash's time had
come and he went away. We could not do anything.”
Prakash Hegde's cold-blooded killing on the night
of January 16, 1976, triggered of a series of equally gruesome
killings by the serial killers that not only rocked the city of Pune,
but also the entire state of Maharashtra.
The killers were finally apprehended on March 30,
1977. But in the intervening period, they accounted for the gruesome
deaths of a total of 10 innocent Punekars.
Jakkal, Sutar and Jagtap were commercial art
students of the Abhinav Kala Mahavidyalaya who hailed from lower
middle class backgrounds. Even before they actually committed the
killings, the foursome had acquired a reputation for eve teasing and
bad conduct on the college campus. They frequently robbed two wheelers
and indulged in drinking bouts. All this needed money, of which there
was always a short supply.
A small hotel was situated just behind their
college, it was run by Sundar Hegde, Prakash's father. It was here
that they hatched the plot to kidnap Prakash for ransom. Prakash
coincidentally was also a student of the Abhinav Kala Mahavidyalaya.
On the fateful afternoon of January 15, 1976, the
foursome along with another classmate Suhas Chandak picked up Prakash
on false pretexts and took him to Jakkal's tin shed on Karve Road.
They forced him to write a note to his father stating that he was
leaving home of his own will.
At night, they gagged him and took into the Peshwe
Park lake. There they strangulated Prakash with a nylon rope, put the
body into an iron barrel, inserted some stones and dumped the barrel
into the lake. The very next day, they sent a ransom note to Sundar
Meanwhile, the note penned by Prakash also reached
his father. The letter had been signed by ‘Prakash', when Prakash was
actually known as Devdas at home. This is when the Hegdes realised
something was wrong. However, despite a police complaint filed by
Hegde, the police could not make much progress.
The gang then decided to move to the city of
Kolhapur in August 1976 but were unsuccessful when they targeted the
house of a local businessman.
Back in Pune, Jakkal and Sutar targeted the family
of Achyut Joshi in the Vijaynagar colony situated in the heart of the
city. On the night of October 31, they forced themselves into the
house brandishing their knives. Achyut Joshi and his wife Usha were
the only ones at home. After tying their hand and legs, the duo killed
them strangulating Achyut Joshi with a nylon rope and suffocating his
wife. When the Joshi's teenaged son Anand walked in he was stripped
naked and strangulated with the same identical nylon rope. After three
ghastly murders they decamped with the booty – a mangalsutra, a watch
and few thousand rupees.
The killers had used rubber gloves leaving no
fingerprints. They also sprayed a strong scent in the house to ward
off the sniffer dogs.
The duo waited for three weeks, before they struck
again. This time at the bungalow of Yashomati Bafna on Shankarseth
road on the evening of November 22. They however faced stiff
resistance from Bafna and her two servants and had to escape by
climbing the barbed wire fence of the bungalow.
After their failure, the four decided to gang up
once again and on the night of December 1, attacked the residence of
the Abhyankars on Bhandarkar road.
Around 8 pm that night, there were five people at
the Abhyankar household. Noted Sanskrit scholar Kashinath Shastri
Abhyankar (88), his wife Indirabai (76), their maid Sakubai Wagh (60)
and the two grandchildren Jai (21) and Dhananjay (19). Kashinath
Shastri's son Gajanan and his wife Hirabai had gone out for dinner.
When the door bell rang, Dhananjay unfortunately
opened the door and the four gained entry. They stuffed Dhananjay's
mouth with a ball of cloth, tied his hand and asked him to direct them
inside the house.
Then in a most inhuman manner the killers
eliminated each of the members one by one. Stuffing their mouths with
a ball of cloth, tying both their hands and legs and then
strangulating the victims with the nylon rope. But the most macabre
end was met by Jai, who was made to strip, like in the case of Anand
Joshi. They asked her to direct them to the valuables in the house.
After they were convinced that they had gathered all the money and
valuables they could lay their hand on, they killed her too.
According to the police, the killers stripped the
last person in order to prevent the person from running away and also
to use the person as a shield, while probing the interiors of the
Understandably Pune was panic stricken after this
incident. People stopped venturing out after 7 p.m. in the evening.
There was a tendency to stay indoors and nobody
opened their doors to strangers.
Emboldened by this fact, the foursome struck yet
again. This time, closer home. They targeted the home of their college
mate Jayant Gokhale.
On the evening of March 23, 1977, Jakkal offered a
lift on his motorcycle to Jayant's younger brother Anil. The foursome
had decided to kill him the same night. Anil was to meet his brother
Jayant at Alka talkies. Not finding his brother there, Anil did not
hesitate to take a lift back from Jakkal. He never reached home.
He was taken to Jakkal's shed and strangulated with
the nylon rope, in the same manner as in all previous cases. His body
was tied to an unused iron ladder, weighed down with big boulders and
dumped into the Mula-Mutha river near Bund Garden.
However on the evening of March 24 the body
surfaced near Yerawada. The police team led by Police Inspector
Manikrao Damame, realised that the nylon ropes used to tie the body to
the ladder, had been fastened in a manner identical to the ones in all
the previous killings.
He immediately brought this to the notice of the
Assistant Commissioner of Police Madhusudan Hulyalkar, the man leading
Undoubtedly this was the turning point for the
police. Hulyalkar (78) now retired, realised that the people last seen
in the company of the deceased had to know something about the crime.
This is how the four were immediately rounded up for investigations.
They were interrogated together and later
individually. According to Hulyalkar, the four boys contradicted each
other about their joint movements in the city over the past week. The
police later pretend to take the killers into confidence and asked
them to aid the investigations. This is how the killers fell into the
trap and committed their biggest mistake. Jakkal informed the police
that there was surely some connection between Hegde and Gokhale
The police were stunned by this revelation.
Hitherto the Hegde case had been dismissed as a ‘missing person' case.
Jakkal's information was an unexpected bonus.
Two plainclothes policemen then kept a close watch
on Jagtap and Sutar, Jagtap was heard telling Sutar – “Will the police
find out now?” To which Sutar is reported to have said “Don't worry,
the boss will take care of the police.”
This conversation provided a vital clue. The word
‘boss' had been used liberally at the Bafna residence on Shankerseth
road during Jakkal and Sutar's foiled attempt.
However, what really convinced the police of the
foursome's involvement was when one of their college mates Satish Gore,
broke down in the course of police interrogation.
Gore had been kept abreast of all their gruesome
activities. If Gore's detailed confessional pinned the foursome down
the subsequent confessions made by another classmate Suhas Chandak,
who was witness to the Hegde killing, was the final nail in their
After the Hegde killing, Chandak had disassociated
himself with the group, despite repeated threats to his life from them.
Chandak, who is today a successful commercial
artist in Pune told this paper, “I would not like to discuss the case
anymore, I am trying hard to forget all about it. It has affected me a
When the four were formally arrested on March 30,
1977, they recounted the serial killings in every detail to the police.
On information provided by the killers, the barrel
containing Hegde's remains was fished out of the Peshwe park lake. The
police also found a long list of incriminating evidence at Jakkal's
shed on Karve road.
Further checking by the police helped them recover
many of the items that had been stolen from the households of the
Joshis and Abhyankars.
The case, which began on May 15, 1978 in Pune
district and sessions court lasted for more than four months. On
September 28, 1978 they were sentenced to death by Waman Narayan Bapat,
the additional sessions judge in Pune.
After both the High Court and Supreme Courts turned
down their appeals, the accused approached the President of India for
a pardon. This was not entertained and the four youths who had caused
so much panic and fear and pain in the city of Pune were hanged to
death at the Yerawada central jail on November 27, 1983.
Box 1 - Cracking the case
The 78-year-old Madhusudan Hutyalkar, the retired
Assistant Commissioner of Police cannot hear in one year, his eyesight
is poor and he has lost most of his front teeth. But when you mention
the Joshi-Abhyankar serial killings, the retired police officer perks
So involved was Hulyalkar in the case, that after
his retirement from the force in 1980, he enrolled for a MA in
Psychology and later successfully completed a Ph.D in the same subject.
“I was very keen to study the criminal mind in today's violent world.”
According to him, the foursome had “corrupt, perverted minds”. This he
felt was the result of unhappy family backgrounds and the negative
environment they lived in.
“One good education and nurturing of values at home
can prevent more criminal minds from taking shape,” said Hulyalkar.
On the other hand 62-year-old Manikrao Damame being
much younger is a lot fitter. Hulyalkar had described him as “My best
officer during that time.” According to Damame, the turning point of
the case, was when they discovered the knots in the rope tied on
“The similarity of the knots in all the cases, made
us link the serial killings together. This is when I realised that the
gang was from Pune and not from outside.”
Box 2 - Punekars' petition
Even after the four accused were sentenced to death
on September 28, 1978, they tried their level best to wriggle out of
the death sentence. They sent a review petition to the Supreme Court
and a mercy petition to the President of India.
This is when Punekars cutting across all political
and community barriers came together and a total of 1000 prominent
citizens signed a joint note addressed to the Supreme Court to argue
the case on behalf of the state. His skilful arguments, it is believed,
resulted in the apex court rejecting the appeal made by the killers at
the admission stage itself.
This was an important contribution, as it prevented
the case from dragging on for a longer time.
Meanwhile, the killers kept trying to delay the
execution under the pretext of wanting to donate their vital organs.
Shah in fact had appealed to the court stating that he wanted to
translate the Koran in Marathi and hence needed more time.
They also appealed to the courts that ‘hanging by
noose' was a painful form of death and hence they should be subjected
to the electric chair. This is when the bereaved families could not
tolerate the delay anymore. They took written opinions of at least 10
leading doctors from across the country, who unanimously agreed that
hanging by noose was the least painful of all terminal punishments.
These opinions were presented in the apex court by the bereaved
Finally almost six and a half years of the case had
opened in the Pune courts, the four were hanged to death on November