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India’s most notorious serial killer – the madman Raman Raghav

January 1, 2007

With kid killers Surendra and Monindar Singh being dubbed as the country’s worst serial killers, another devilish serial killer came to my mind. In fact this serial killer (Raman Raghav) was so coldblooded and unfeeling that I was reminded of Saddam Hussain and his dead eyes! Saddam was a serial killer alright, though I don’t know whether he bloodied his hands. One thing is for sure – he was a man without a conscience, a man for whom killing another was easier than swatting a fly. And I could not help wondering whether the mind of Raman Raghav could offer a clue into the mind of Saddam.
Footprints in the Sands of Crime
Some years earlier I had bought a book called ‘The Footprints on the Sands of Crime,’ by Ramakant Kulkarni, the cop who had brought Raman Raghav to book. Kulkarni was the Deputy Commissioner of Police CID (Crime) at the time. He was often referred to as ‘Sherlock Holmes’ by the media and later rose to be the Director General of Police, Maharashtra State. His book is a simply written treatise with detailed and well documented descriptions of his various cases ranging from highway murders, smuggling incidents, bomb blasts to note counterfeiting and the assasination of Indira Gandhi. (By the way, he is not related to me though we share the same name.)
In this post I will give a very short synopsis of his chapter on the serial killer Raman Raghav, who has till now been known as India’s worst serial killer.
Renewed serial killings
Raman Raghav was a poor homeless man and his victims were also poor. His modus operandi was simple and also identical for all the murders. He killed his victims when they were sleeping by hitting them with a hard and blunt object. As his victims either lived on the pavements or in ‘ramshackle huts’, it was not difficult for the killer to approach the victims. What made everyone’s skin crawl however was that the killings did not appear to be for gain. Even when some money was found to be missing in some cases, it did not warrant the gruesome killings. He just seemed to want to kill anyone who got in the way.
When DCP Kulkarni took over the case (1968), several murders had taken place in this manner. This brought to light the fact that just a few years earlier, in 1965-66, there had been a similar string murders – as many as 19 attacks in which 9 people had died.
Raghav had been picked up by the police, but allowed to go
At the time a suspicious looking guy seen in the vicinity had been picked up and questioned by the police – a man by the name of Raman Raghav. He was already a felon, having served five years in prison for robbery, although the initial charge against him had been that of robbery and murder. The murder charge was never proved. Detective Inspector Vakatkar, who had questioned Raman Raghav at the time recalled that ‘he was a hard nut to crack.’ Vakatkar also mentioned a pocket diary had been recovered from Raghav in which he had penned words like Khatam and Khallas, which means: Finished. However, at the time no hard evidence could be found against Raghav and the police had let him go with the admonition to get out of Bombay.
Had Raghav returned?
In his book, DCP Kulkarni mentions a theory of ‘Environment Criminology’ about the ‘geometry of crime.’ The theory suggests that crime ocurrs ‘within a safe distance’ from the perpetrator’s home but at the same time not too far away as he likes an area he is familiar with. Thus, after the DCP and his team got hold of Raghav’s old file (which had his fingerprints, photographs and names of acquaintences), a massive manhunt was launched for the man, with a special focus in the area where the murders were being committed. After weeks of a painstaking search, the police finally managed to find an old acquaintance of his called Manjulabai, a maid. She told them that she had seen Raghav recently in the area but had no idea where he lived.
So, Raghav was back.
More proof
While this search was going on, the police managed to match the fingerprints of Raghav to the recent crime scenes. However, finding Raghav was difficult in the sprawling city like Mumbai. He had no address. Finally however, an alert sub-inspector of police, Alex Fialho, spotted and arrested him. Raghav’s clothes found to be blood-stained and a fingerprint comparision revealed that this man was indeed Raman Raghav alias Sindhi Dalvai.
Raghav was reluctant to talk
However, as Ramakant Kulkarni writes, the ordeal had just begun. The suspect maintained a ‘studied silence’ throughout the questioning and it looked like they would never get him to talk.
The breakthrough came one day when one of the offiicers casually asked Raghav whether he needed anything. The suspect’s immediately opened his mouth and asked for Murgi (chicken). After this was provided to him, he asked for another dish of chicken curry and rice. Then he demanded hair oil, a comb, and a mirror! Then cheekily he added, ‘I would also like a prostitute but I guess the law will not allow that.’ After the oil came he applied the perfumed coconut oil to his whole body and then kept staring at his reflection in the mirror. Then after admiring himself for quite a while, he at last turned to the policemen and said, ‘Now tell me – what do you want?’
‘We want to know all about the murders,’ said a young officer.
‘Maardaar?’ he asked. ‘Well, I shall tell you all about them. Get a vehicle, an armed guard and two witnesses. The law requires that. And I shall show you the iron akada I used to commit the murders, knives and other things which I have hidden in the bushes at Aarey Colony.’
They got the proof
And indeed Raghav did lead the police to a thorny bush from where he pulled out an iron fulcrum jimmy which he had referred to as an akada. Ramakant Kulkarni describes it thus: ‘It was an octagonal rod bent at one end and tapering at another. The circumference at the thicker end measured four inches. There were what looked like bloodstains near the bend of the jimmy.’ Raghav also produced knives, a screwdriver, an iron jimmy, a coloured napkin and a torch. The napkin was his ‘loot’ from a double murder!
A guy called Michael who had made the akada for Raghav told the police that he came from the same district at Raghav in Tamil Nadu and knew him as Tambi. He remembered that Tambi’s roommate had been found dead, but had not suspected his friend. Therefore when Tambi asked for the crowbar he gave it to him. Tambi turned up three days later but refused the cup of tea that Michael offered him, saying that he had an objection to drinking tea ‘in the house of a Christian’! Michael then asked him to return the crowbar, but Tambi flew into a rage and walked out.
Raghav took the cops on a tour of the Borivili (suburb of Mumbai) hills and produced items like a stove, an umbrella etc which he had stolen from his victims. And over the next few days Raghav gave the gory details of the murders he had committed. He agreed to make a full confession in the presence of a magistrate. When asked by the magistrate as to why he wanted to confess, he said it was God’s directive.
The DCP says that he puzzled over Raghav’s confession for several years, not quite understanding why he had confessed. Until he read a book called ‘Criminal Investigation’ by Aubry and Caputo. In this book, the authors said: ‘The key to sucessful interrogation of psychopaths lies within the personality structure of the individual himself. For some, conscience does not matter and the ability to distinguish between right and wrong is missing. Therefore the classical approach to interrogation which depends on the repetition of the theme of good and bad, right and wrong will have little effect on such a mind. Simply agreeing with such an individual can be an effective technique.’ Once friendliness and understanding is offered, the individual might wish to ‘repay’ this kindness by giving the interrogator what he wants.
A few excerpts from Raghav’s confession
The following excerpts gives us a peek into this serial killer’s mind:
“At Poisar, off the Ahmedabad road, I saw a woman and child sleeping inside a hut, where a man was sleeping outside. I hit the man on the head, and he got up shouting. I hit him again till he died. The girl also started shouting and I ran away.”
“On the Malad side of the Ahmedabad road, I saw a hamlet and some stables. A bearded Muslim was sleeping on a cot. The door of the hamlet was not locked. I hit him on the way in and he died on the spot. I took his wristwatch and when I saw some money in his jhabba which was hanging inside, I put the jhabba in my bag. I also took some groundnuts in a bottle, an umbrella, and a torch. Once home, I removed the money from the jhabba and tore it to make hankerchiefs.”
“A few days later I saw a hut in the same area. I peeped inside and saw a woman, and a child. She was wearing a gold necklace. I kept watch until one day I found her sleeping and her husband beside her. I cut the string which fastened the front door and then hit the man with an iron rod until he died. The woman and child were shouting and I hit them both and killed them. I was thinking of sleeping with the woman but someone came and I ran away. The gold necklace turned out to be imitation gold.
“I found a woman and two children sleeping in a hut. I hit her twice or thrice until she died. I removed her cover and found that she was nude….” This is too disturbing for me to pen here.
Raghav was suspected to be mad
Raman Raghav was examined by a Dr. Patkar, a psychiatrist, who diagnosed him as suffering from ‘chronic paranoid schizophrenia.’ Dr. Master who had also examined Raghav concluded that Raghav was ‘normal’.
After weighing all the pros and cons, the additional sessions judge found Raghav guilty of murder and because this case was ‘unparalleled and unsurpassed in the history of crime’, the penalty given was death. Even though Raghav himself did not appeal against this sentence, this sentence had to be ‘confirmed’ by the High Court as per the law. The High Court directed a panel of three psychiatrists to examine the convict. The psychiatrists found him of ‘unsound mind’ and thus Raghav’s death sentence was held in abeyance. In the meantime he was sent to Yerwada prison and he remained under treatment at the Central Institute of Mental Health and Research.
The verdict
Finally, under their judgement of 4th August 1987, the court set aside the death penalty and sentenced Raman Raghav to imprisonment for life as they believed that Raghav (who was showing no signs of improvement under treatment) was incurable.

Ramakant Kulkarni ends this interesting 14 page chapter with a news item that he came across a few years after this judgement: Raman Raghav, the dreaded maniac who had terrorised Bombay by his cold blooded nocturnal killings of hutment dwellers twenty years ago, died at Sassoon hospital. He had been suffering from kidney trouble.’

The end of a madman.

Related Reading: Even more horrific – the child serial killers of Nithari, Noida.

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. Eshan permalink
    January 8, 2007 7:58 pm

    Hey Neeta,

    One can find plenty of people with good writing skills.

    But I must say u have something exceptional (dont really know what that is.), and I appreciate your art of explaining things.

    I came to your site searching for a serial killer file, got a clue from the story above.

    Thanks and keep up the good work.

    Eshan Kochar

  2. Neeta Pawar permalink
    April 2, 2007 5:45 am

    Hi Nita,
    That is an amazing article! Growing up I heard endless stories about Raman Ragahavan as my grandfather P.V.Pawar was his attorney and saved him from the gallows. Most people you mention in the article came to his law office to discuss the Raman Raghavan case. My grandfather, “kaka” as we called him, visited Raman Ragahvan regularly in Yeravada. Ironically my grandfather passed away the next day after Raman Raghavan died on April 9th 1988. I sincerely appreciate your article.
    Thanks!
    Neeta Pawar

  3. Amar permalink
    December 28, 2007 3:41 am

    Interesting. Is the book still in print? Love to read that. Sriram Raghavan , director of the movie Johnny Gaddar has a done documentary on Raghav Raman.

  4. January 28, 2008 8:15 pm

    Hi, Im analysing this case as a part of my criminal psychology project for my Law undergraduate course……must say uv provided a comprehensive picture of the entire issue….thanks a ton, ur blog has helped me in my research!!

  5. Rajeev Pawar permalink
    April 22, 2008 10:32 am

    Hi Nita,

    Very well written article. I have followed Raman Raghav’s story for long since my grandfather P V Pawar was his advocate (Neeta Pawar mentioned above is my cousin) and actually managed to save his life. It was a case he fought gratis since Raghav could not afford a lawyer.Any idea if ‘The Footprints on the Sands of Crime,’ by Ramakant Kulkarni, is still in print?

    Rajeev

    Thanks Rajeev. About the book, to my knowledge its available at Amazon. You could try there. – Nita.

  6. maka permalink
    September 20, 2008 3:26 pm

    you had done a great job neeta , by reading these lines written by you i feel like rushing and purchase this book . And i have already purchased. Raman raghav , by reading your lines i want to see his photograph , actually my mosaji has experienced a time with raman raghav. and its true he has a proof too!!!!!!

  7. maka permalink
    September 20, 2008 3:26 pm

    Schizophrenia (pronounced /ˌskɪtsəˈfriːniə/), from the Greek roots schizein (σχίζειν, “to split”) and phrēn, phren- (φρήν, φρεν-, “mind”) is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a mental disorder characterized by abnormalities in the perception or expression of reality. It most commonly manifests as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions or disorganized speech and thinking in the context of significant social or occupational dysfunction.

    • Vivek Khadpekar permalink
      June 1, 2009 12:25 pm

      Μακα: Θάνξ

  8. karti permalink
    March 1, 2009 11:53 pm

    can you please tell if there is a book about raman raghav and where can i find it?

  9. Nidhin permalink
    June 1, 2009 4:05 am

    nicely penned down. reading the article was just like watching a film. got the link after i googled for serial killers.

  10. Peter permalink
    July 6, 2009 9:58 pm

    Nita,
    Great article. I watched the movie Zodiac last month with my teenage daughter and in discussing the movie, I got a chance to tell her about RR. I also out of curiosity decided to google RR and came across your article. I just thought I’d share my two cents with you. Since I haven’t read Kulkarni’s book, I’m not sure if it mentions that RR was arrested in Dongri. My dad was in charge of Dongri Police Station and Alex Fialho was one of 18 sub and deputy inspectors and 150 constables who reported to him. RR was picked up while visiting a popular hookah smoking area in Dongri. He had done all of his killings in the outskirts of Mumbai and had come into the city for some R & R. My dad had asked his officers to concentrate on this area as it had previously attracted other murder suspects. If I’m not mistaken, I was one of the first to see RR as the police jeep pulled into the compound following his arrest that morning. We lived at the police station and I was waiting for my dad to take me for a haircut. Alex popped his head out of the jeep and asked me to go upstairs and get the boss as he had someone special in custody. But first, I decided to go to the back of the jeep to get a glimpse of this special prisoner, only to see this puny looking fellow hunched over his umbrella. The rest is history.
    It’s funny that I would ask my mother the previous night if RR would ever come to Dongri to kill. She laughed and said my dad would never let that happen and asked me to go to bed.
    Alex did share credit with my dad in all of his newspaper interviews. I’m pretty sure Kulkarni never did.
    Thanks.

    • July 6, 2009 10:19 pm

      Peter, it’s good to hear directly from someone whose life has been directly touched by this serial killer. RR is not the kind of man anyone can ever forget. Thanks for sharing.

    • jatin adhav permalink
      July 15, 2010 4:01 pm

      Dear Nita,

      My grandfather then a senior officer also had worked in this case.

      Below this is an extract of news published in MUMBAI, Oct 29/2002:
      “Raman Raghav was arrested in the late 1960s by Assistant Commissioner of Police Alex Fialo. The entire case was handled by Deputy Commissioner of Police Basil Kane.”

      “A senior serving crime branch officer said most of the killings of Raman Raghav were spread in the Ghatkopar, Andheri and Jogeshwari area.”

      Regards,
      Jatin Adhav

    • jatin adhav permalink
      July 17, 2010 11:42 am

      Dear Peter, need to ask you more about the story pls mail me on jatinadhav@rediffmail.com when you have time.

      Regards
      Jatin

  11. Amit Badami permalink
    August 3, 2009 1:52 am

    Just came across this whilst “googling” some of my grandfather’s ( M B Vora’s) cases. He was Chief Public Prosecutor of Mumbai during that period and was the prosecutor in that case. He never told me much abt it, just that the guy shud have got the death penalty

  12. Amol Nagarkar permalink
    April 30, 2010 3:27 pm

    i liked the article very much.

    My grandfather had seen him (RR) and that was a dreadful time to venture out of your house after 7 pm.RR used to live on a tree in Aarey colony,when asked as to why he used to commit murders he said (I have a command from god to kill him).
    He was a very simple man and always carried a umbrella in which he used to hide his Akkada (Weapon)

    Amol

  13. shigri permalink
    August 2, 2010 7:00 pm

    verry good

  14. Braham Singh permalink
    January 12, 2011 8:28 pm

    Footprints in the Sands of Crime is not available anymore on Amazon. Or in any bookstores in the USA. Can anyone help locate it in India? By the way, good work, Nita.

    • Anita Bhogle permalink
      February 22, 2011 11:08 am

      Hi Braham, Nita and others

      My name is Anita Bhogle . I am Mr Ramakant Kulkarni’s daughter. I am a management consultant and live in Mumbai. My father passed away in 2005. A few days ago, I was approached by some people who are putting together profiles of people they believe are the architects of modern Maharashtra, to give them information about Mr Ramakant Kulkarni. While putting this together, I just googled his name and found it heartening to see people still interested in his work. I have my copies of the 3 books he wrote. In case there are people interested in research on criminology and investigation, you can drop me a mail on abhogle@yahoo.com. I could give you the names of the publishers or photostat them in case they are out of print.

      Thanks, Nita for putting me on this trail !

      Anita

  15. prashanth permalink
    February 17, 2011 2:45 am

    The sad thing is those who are murdered are poor road side sleeper if it was a middle class or high it would have been taken seriously

  16. lovpreet permalink
    March 22, 2011 6:28 pm

    nice article.. its true dat he was a horrifying killer, but it cant be denied dat he suffered from incurable paranoid schizophrenia wid symptoms of delusion of grandeour,wn d patient feels dat he has got many powers and delusion of prosecution,wn one gets suspicious of everybody n anybody… he ws helpless

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