In the early hours of September 5, 38-year-old Mahesh and his family members woke up to the smell of smoke inside their house in Goruguntepalya in Bengaluru. The house was on fire and Mahesh tried to rush to the front door with his wife, children and his friend. But to his shock, he realised that the front door was locked from the outside.
Mahesh, his 25-year-old wife Anjana screamed loudly, waking up the neighbours who rescued the family members and rushed them to a hospital. Although everyone had inhaled smoke and sustained burn injuries, 6-year-old Prajwal succumbed to his injuries within hours.
The RMC Yard Police probing the case had initially registered a case of arson. Further investigations have led them to register a case of murder and the suspect is none other that Mahesh's father and Prajwal’s paternal grandfather Raju.
“All of us had burn injuries but my son was the worst affected. He died that night itself. As soon as all of us were discharged from the hospital, we decided to move away from Bengaluru. It was so hard for me to believe that my father could have done this to us. What did my wife and children ever do to him?” Mahesh says.
According to the RMC Yard police, Raju was estranged from his wife and used to live with one of his sons. “Raju was initially staying with Mahesh’s younger brother and his family. His sexually harassed his daughter-in-law on multiple occasions. When she could not bear the torture she told her husband about the misconduct,” an investigating officer said.
In the beginning of 2018, when the incident came to light, Mahesh confesses that he did not believe his sister-in-law’s version and had decided to bring his aging father home to Goruguntepalya in Bengaluru.
“This was the worst mistake of my life. Within months of him coming to live with us, my wife told me about how my father had misbehaved with her. I was so shocked. I was so angry that my own father would do this and that’s when I knew that I had made a mistake by not believing my sister-in-law. I remember apologising to her. My wife and I decided to record proof of his misconduct. A week before our house was set on fire, my father over heard my wife talking to her parents about his behaviour. I am sure he paid off someone to kill us because he thought I would send him away to an old age home,” Mahesh says.
Police say that Raju is absconding and a search operation has been launched. The police have also found CCTV footage of three men locking the door from outside and setting the house on fire.
“We have to find out who the people are. We have questioned neighbours who may have seen the three men. We are trying to track down Raju. His arrest will give us more clarity. The last time his phone was active was 11 days after the boy died. Raju had called Mahesh’s business partner and asked about the family’s whereabouts,” the police added.
Mahesh and his wife, are still recovering from burn injuries and have moved out of Bengaluru fearing another such incident. “We are scared that my father may find us. We would not like to say where we are living now. Let the police catch him first. My wife’s health is more important to me, she is still recovering from her injuries,” Mahesh says.
The RMC Yard police registered a case of attempt to murder and mischief by fire with intent to destroy the house on September 5. “We have added murder to the FIR,” the police added.