Three real estate agents were found shot and a fouth killed with a hard object at a farmhouse 20 km from Panvel on Wednesday morning. New Panvel Police suspect Ramdas Patil (53) Balaram Topale (42), Nitin Joshi (40) and Preetam Gharat (25) met for a business transaction and might have been carrying a large sum.
The farmhouse belongs to Datta Patil, activist and vice-president of local Agriculture Produce and Market Committee, who is an uncle of Ramdas.
Officers probing the case said his son asked Patil at 10.30 am on Wednesday for keys to the farmhouse in Chincholi to perform a Diwali puja.
Patil told him nephew Ramdas took the keys on Sunday saying he had a meeting with friends regarding a real estate deal. Ramdas said a hotel room would not be safe as they were carrying a large sum, police claimed.
Patil told cops a watchman at the farmhouse informed him that Ramdas and three friends arrived in a Toyota Innova. They gave Rs 500 to the watchman and told him to go on leave for four days.
Watchman Alarku Durge, who has been working for Patil for a year, said, “I did as was told. However, boss asked me on Wednesday to check the farmhouse and take keys from Ramdas. I went there and to my horror, I found four bodies in a pool of blood with shattered liquor bottles.”
While Topale was found dead inside the bungalow with a bullet wound in his temple, Ramdas was found a few feet away with a wound made by a hard object. Gharat was found near the bungalow, while Joshi’s body was in the fields metres away from the farmhouse.
Residents near the farmhouse said they saw the four men arrive in a car. They said in the wee hours of Tuesday they heard loud noises like gunshots. “We assumed people were bursting crackers and did not check. We did not know about the murders till police arrived on Wednesday morning,” said Shiv Nath.
Sunil Bajare, senior inspector of New Panvel Police Station, said a case of murder had been registered.
Sources said a police team was sent to a location around 100 km from the farmhouse towards Pune after a tip-off.
“Our investigation team found many bottles of liquor and food packets in the house,” said DCP (Zone II) Pramod Shewale.
Police believe the four might have been drinking for hours before they were killed. “We have sent the bodies for postmortem to know the exact time of their death,” said Shewale.
“Real estate land dealings may be the motive behind the murders,” said Bajare.
Police are also probing if the murders could be politically motivated as Ramdas and Topale were allegedly members of a political outfit.