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 The city was busy with new year's eve celebrations. But for Dadar resident Jagdish Podneka owner of Pednekar Jeweflers at Sihvaji Park, it was time to pack his bags and set off on a vacation. His 21 year-old wife Urmila and six- year-old daughter Shweta were looking forward to their holiday in Mahabaleshwar. The Pednekars left for Mahabaleshwar in their Ceilo car on December 31 last year. That was the last time their relatives and friend saw them.

A few days later, the Poladpur police in Mahad found the car in the ravines near Mahabaleshwar. It had tumbled down a 350-foot slop. Surprisingly, when the police inspected the car from close quarters,  they found no blood stains.  Moreover, the doors of the car  were locked. There was no trace of  either the occupants or their belongings. Where had the Pednekars disappeared? Had they been kidnapped, or did Jagdish Pednekar pull off a vanishing trick? The questions remain unanswered four months after the incident took place.  The mysterious disappearance of the jeweller his family has baffled the city and state police. Thirty four-vear-old Jaedish Pednekar belonged to a  to a family of traditional gold jewellers, but.he had severed his fillial ties several years ago and set up his own shop in Shivaj'i Park.

Mr Pednekar was not on talking; terms with either, it was learnt. According to an investigating officer , Mr Pednekar's brother owned a jewellery shop Australia, but the brothers were not on good terms either.

. Members close to the family last heard of. of Mr Pednekar, Urmila and their daughter when they were planning



  to go onto Ratnagiri from Mahabaleshwar.The police later informed the relatives about the abandoned car found in the ravines. Nobody had a clue  to where the Pednekars had disappeared.

The investigating team conjured up several possibilities. According to one theory, Jagdish Pednekar had  planned his vanishing act down to the last detail. Investigations revealed that Mr Pednekar had withdrawn money from his business and invested it in a flat  in Mahim about two years ago. As a result, the business had suffered a financial loss. Six months ago, he had had sold his Mahim flat and rented a flat at Lokhandwala coniplex in Andheri.

Although he had not paid the rent for four month he  was known to live lavishly.  He was fond of expensive liquor  and flashy cars. The Ceilo which his familv was reportedly travelling  to Mahabaleshwar had been bought on  instalment basis. Mr Pednekar is believed to have paid  only two instalments for the car.

Another theory doing the rounds was that he owed money to the extent of Rs 20 lakhs to about 150 persons.

  A section of the poBce presumes that in order save his skin, Mr Pednekar decided to flee the city. the police search of his residence and shop revealed th at Mr Pednekar and his wife had taken all their jewellery with them.

A third possibility, according to the Shivaji Park police, was that Mr Pednekar along with his fanmily members had been kidnapped by extortionists However, there has been no call from the alleged kidnappers.The police are now unsure whether : Mr Pednekar; his wife and daughter are dead or alive. For now. they continue to grope in the dark.