‘Psycho’ killer, kin convicted in journalist murder case

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A district court on Thursday convicted Ram Niranjan alias Raja Kalander (50) and his brother-in-law Bachchraj for killing journalist Dhirendra Singh, who worked with Hindi daily "Aaj". The conviction comes nearly 12 years after Niranjan's nefarious activities — including killing people on the slightest pretext, dismembering their bodies and keeping their skulls in his house —- came to light in 2000.

Niranjan and Bachchraj have been in jail since their arrest on December 18, 2000.

Additional District Judge-II Mehtab Ahmed found the two guilty on charges under Sections 302 (murder), 201 (destruction of evidence) and 404 (misappropriation of property, which is in possession of the person at the time of his death) of the Indian Penal Code. However, the court acquitted the duo of the charges of kidnapping. The quantum of punishment is likely to be pronounced on Friday.

Niranjan had admitted to killing at least 11 other people following his arrest, including two persons from Lucknow. However, with the police not being able to recover the bodies and sufficient evidence, some of the cases have been disposed of, while the trial is languishing in others. Cases related to the two Lucknow-based victims are going on in lower court in the state capital.

The horrific activities of Niranjan, a low-level employee at the Central Ordinance Depot (COD) in Naini, had come to light when the police began investigation in connection with Singh's disappearance. The journalist had gone missing from his house in Kydganj area of the city on December 14, 2000. Three days later, his brother lodged a complaint, following which the police registered a case of kidnapping. Scrutiny of call details revealed that Singh had made the last call on the mobile phone of Phoolan Devi, who was Niranjan's wife. When the police reached his house in Chhinwki village, close to the COD, they found Singh's motorcycle, along with his mobile phone and charger.

The police also recovered a Tata Sumo, which was brought to his house by two persons, who too had been killed. Overall, the police had recovered broken skull parts and other bones from his house, which accounted for the murder of 14 more people. Niranjan had allegedly disclosed having killed more persons, but the police could not gather evidence.

Niranjan had told the police that he had dismembered Singh's body and thrown its parts in a lake in Rewa (Madhya Pradesh). The police had recovered some of the body parts from there. He had also told the police that he killed Singh because he was apprehensive that the latter would publish his story. His brother-in-law had also actively helped Niranjan in his activities, the police said.

During the course of investigation, the police found that Niranjan would kill people almost without reason, or if he got angry. He behaved "as a king", who would "hand out punishment" to whoever crossed his path. The prosecution had also told the court that Niranjan was given to eating certain body parts of his victims. In one case, he killed a person belonging to a certain community, on the whim that people from that community had sharp brains. He then ate parts of his brain, the prosecution had told the court.

While the chargesheet was filed in February 2001, the trial continued to drag for long as the prosecution struggled to get witnesses to depose against him. "Some of the witnesses had to be brought from Rewa. Besides, he would argue, he had been framed and the evidence recovered did not directly connect him to the crime," said a prosecution officer.

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