Living with a Serial Killer

Sunday

The words 'butcher', 'serial killer' and 'blood' disturb her. For her, he is still the shy neighbour who threw her fleeting glances over her brother's shoulder, always quick to turn away when she looked back. That was in 1996 and the 18-year-old was on her first visit to Delhi, staying with her brother in a north Delhi locality.

She is Mamata. Not Mamata Jha, she insists, never changed her name after their "love marriage" in 1997. He is Chandrakant Jha, the 'serial killer' from west Delhi who recently sentenced to death in two cases and got life imprisonment in another—for three of the seven murders he was convicted of by a Delhi court.

Jha, 46, was arrested in May 2007. He was found guilty of strangling his victims, decapitating their bodies and then throwing each part in a different area. His signature style was to leave a sizeable portion of the mutilated body outside Tihar jail. In two cases, he reportedly left notes for the police, with the promise of leaving similar "gifts" every fortnight. In one case, he is said to have called a west Delhi police station himself to inform them about a body part lying outside Tihar. Why did he kill? The reasons, going by police records, were chillingly casual—he thought one of his victims was a habitual liar, he was upset about another's womanising ways and didn't like the fact that one of his potential victims ate non-vegetarian.

The victims were all young men who he is said to have helped. According to the police, he had accommodated them in a house in Haiderpur, north-west Delhi, when they were new in town, had helped them find jobs and then, when he got annoyed with them, simply decided to kill. According to the notes he left behind with the bodies, the killings were his way of getting back at the police for "falsely implicating" him in criminal cases over the years. Jha, who hawked plastic goods at weekly bazaars, accuses the police of leveling "false cases" of theft and other criminal cases against him for refusing to bribe the beat constable in his area. (In court, Jha went back on his confession and denied having committed the murders or trying to teach the police a lesson.)

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