(Recasting intro,adding reax) Patna, Feb 3 (PTI) An airlines official whose murder in the Bihar capital last month had caused a furore, was sprayed with bullets by a petty criminal nursing a grouse since their vehicles collided in the city several weeks earlier, police concluded on Wednesday.
Senior Superintendent of Police, Patna, Upendra Kumar Sharma made a claim to this effect at a crowded press conference where he also produced Rituraj, the alleged killer who answered frantic queries of journalists with a black cloth wrapped around his face.
However, the family members of the slain Indigo station manager Rupesh Kumar Singh were not convinced with the police theory on the high-profile murder case and so was the opposition.
Rituraj said he had previously made 'two or three' attempts on the life of Rupesh Singh, as he had been seething with rage ever since he barely missed getting crushed under the wheels of the latters SUV on a date he could not recall except that it was 'around Deepawali' and in the vicinity of the office of Lok Janshakti Party.
The LJP state headquarters is situated at Wheeler Road, a few hundred metres from the Patna airport where Singh went for work.
According to the SSP, Rituraj was an auto-lifter, had been involved in theft of many motorcycles, and was assisted in the audacious murder by three of his associates for whom a search was on.
Notwithstanding the district police chiefs claim that cracking the case had involved sifting through reams of CCTV footage and other types of rigorous investigations, the opposition flew into a rage.
In a furious tweet, leader of the opposition Tejashwi Yadav alleged that the police had come out with a 'scapegoat' (bali ka bakra) to let off big fish and likened the story of a 'road rage' that simmered for weeks to the script of a 'C- grade film'.
The family members also reacted with incredulity. Singhs bereaved wife Neetu told reporters, 'I demand further investigation. The motive could not be just road rage'.
Anju Singh, a sister of the deceased, admitted to be in the know of her brother having been involved in a road mishap but rubbished Riturajs claim that Rupesh Singh had 'abused' him, asserting 'he was too timid' for picking up a quarrel.
The SSP said six bullets were pumped into Singh on the fateful January evening while he was inside his car, waiting for gates of his apartment in Punaichak locality, barely a kilometre from the Chief Ministers residence and Raj Bhavan, to open.
He also said the shots were fired from a country-made pistol and the weapon has been seized.
Rituraj, according to the SSP, had fled Patna after the attack and gone into a hiding at various places in adjoining state of Jharkhand.
He returned recently under the impression that the pace of investigation has slackened and he would be able to escape the police radar.
The murder of Singh, known to be friends with many influential people of Bihar by virtue of his professional standing, had evoked widespread alarm.
Besides drawing criticisms from the opposition, which insisted the murder was indicative of a collapse of law and order, the killing also led to demands for a CBI inquiry from some quarters, including a Rajya Sabha member of the BJP, a partner in the ruling dispensation.
Political personalities from almost all parties had been making a beeline to his home here and ancestral residence in Saran district since the murder hit the headlines.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who had been buffeted with attacks as he holds the Home portfolio, summoned DGP SK Singhal two times in as many weeks, sending him back with instructions for cracking the case at the earliest.
The pressure had become evidently too much to handle for the seasoned politician known for primness of conduct, who erupted in anger at journalists when they sought to nag him with queries about the case on the sidelines of a function.
Various theories had been doing rounds in the local media including a possible dispute over awarding of tender for managing the parking lot at the airport.
Controversial former MP Pappu Yadav also gave a free rein to his rabble rousing proclivities, coming out repeatedly with 'evidences' that brought into question the role of some influential bureaucrats whom the deceased was supposedly chummy with. PTI AR NAC SNS PTI PTI