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A YEAR LATER, URMILA'S KILLERS REMAIN AT LARGE

"Hello, this is Urmila speaking." The voice on the other end responded with a gracious  "Yes. Urmilaji." "I have a serious  problem. A few minutes ago, I received a telephonic threat. I am afraid somebody wants to kill  me," Urmila Bhatt informed her  friend. The conversation lasted for a few minutes before Ms. Bhatt hung up the receiver. Exactly half an hour later, there was a visitor at the door.

 The doorbell kept ringing but nobody answered it. Finally, the door was opened with force and the visitor, accompanied by two persons rushed into the flat. They were shocked to see Ms Bhatt lying dead in a pool of blood. Her throat was slit open with a sharp instrument.

The gruesome murder of film and television actress Urmila Bhatt on February 22,1997, has remained a  mystery so far. The murder came to light when  Vikram Parikh,a relative. visited her residence on Juhu Tara Road around 7.30 p.m.

Mr Parikh's suspicions were aroused when nobody answered the bell.He then went to the Mughal Mahal Hotel run by Ms  Bhatt's daughter Rachna and her son-in-law Vijay Sharma. The  three of them rushed back to Ms. Bhatt's residence and forced the the door open, whereupon they discovered her body.

The Juhu police rushed to the spot and began making inquiries with Ms Bhatt's daughter. It was  learnt that Urmila Bhatt stayed  alone in the flat while her husband, Makrand Bhatt, dean of  performing arts faculty at Baroda University, was away. Ms Bhatt ,was in her sixties and had been associated with the film and theatre world for over three decades.

She was a quiet, almost reticent woman who would not open the door to a stranger. Policemen, who were baffled by her mysterious death, began searching for possible clues inside the house. Except for a gold bangle worn by her The police then ruled out the possibility of robbery as a motive.

Further investigations revealed that the rear door of the house was partly open. Police officers 

 

presumed that the assailant might have either entered or escaped through that door. Fingerprint experts searched for possible prints of the unknown visitor.

Commenting on the progress of investigations, additional police , commissioner Satyapal Singh said, "During the course of the inquiry, we met Ms Bhatt's close friend and advisor (name undisclosed by the police). Interestingly, the friend had received a call from Ms Bhatt a few minutes before the murder. Ms Bhatt had informed her friend about the danger to her life but there was little that the friend could do to save her. The killer had already executed his job during the next few minutes." Incidentally, the friend is also believed to have received a telephonic threat after returning home from the police station.

According to the police, the  ill murder took place between 7 and 7.30 p.m. Investigations at the murder spot revealed that Ms.Bhatt had shown signs of resistance. "It was an emotional out- bust," said a police officer, adding ; that it was 'an insider job'. Two persons were detained for interrogations but they could not provide clues to the killer.

Meanwhile, policemen  inquired into a fraud case registered with the crime branch in 1981—in which Ms Bhatt's name had figured. Two share brokers Harkishan Chatrabhuj Kamdar and his son Jayesh, were accused of collecting huge sums of money from city residents and later fleeing to the U.S. A few film and theatre personalities were believed to have invested huge sums in the  Kamdar business at Ms Bhatt's request, the police said. Ms Bhat had, however, denied her conivance with the Kamdars in the fraud.

 Police investigations in connection with the Kamdar business did not yield any results. The killer has managed to send the police on a wild goose chase for, over a year. While the public was aware of the murderer in the 'Zee Horror Show', a television soap in which Ms Bhatt starred and was killed by the villain, the real life murder continues to remain a mystery.