Bhopal, Sept 12: During the day Adesh Khamra stitched clothes, hunched over his sewing machine in a small shop on the fringes of Bhopal. In the night, as he tossed in bed, consumed by visions of deadly crimes that he wanted to commit, he perhaps saw himself switching the needle for an axe, the thread into a hangman's noose.
Then the killings started. Sometime around 2010. The first one in Amravati, the other in Nashik. Soon, bodies started popping up everywhere in MP, some even in Maharashtra, UP and Bihar. There was one element that connected the murders. All the victims were truck drivers and their helpers. But no one thought the quiet, affable tailor from Mandideep could have been behind the brutality.
Last week, when the local police finally nabbed Khamra, they were stunned he admitted to 30 killings. On Tuesday, he said he had killed three more. At 33 serial strikes, that would make him one of India's deadliest killers, behind the likes of Raman Raghav, who was charged with slaughtering 42, Surendra Koli and the Stoneman of Kolkata. Khamra, who was arrested from the jungles of Sultanpur in UP by a daring woman cop after a three-day chase last week, "was admitting to murders so rapidly" that the raiding team said it was struggling to keep up with the flow of information.
‘He killed drivers to give them salvation’
It was Bhopal city SP Bittu Sharma — a taekwondo black belt and Asian Games bronze medalist in judo — who took Khamra down at gunpoint in the dead of the night. Neither she nor SP Lodha Rahul Kumar, who headed investigations into two recent murders of truckers, had any clue then that they possibly had one of India’s most notorious serial killers in their custody. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime case,” said Lodha.
Co-accused Jaykaran has told police that whenever they asked him why he killed the drivers, he would laugh and say he is granting them salvation. “They lead hard lives,” he would laugh. “I am giving them mukti, freeing them from pain.”
Friends and relatives said it was unbelievable that they had lived next to a monster all this while. “He was a quiet man, well behaved. There is no way anyone will accept he has the blood of so many on his hands,” said a neighbor.
Bhopal DIG Dharmendra Choudhary said Khamra, 48 now, could put up a disarming show of warmth and friendliness. He used this to befriend truckers and trap them. While his men looted the cargo, he would strangle the drivers with a length of rope. Occasionally, he used poison to silence his victims.
The modus operandi was chillingly effective — ensnare truckers over drinks, drug them, murder them, strip them of every bit of clothing that could lead to their identification, and dump bodies under culverts or on hilly roads.
This way, bodies would turn up in states ranging from MP to Maharashtra, UP, Bihar and Jharkhand, with police struggling to join the dots. “That is what makes this gang so deadly. We don’t know how many more cold cases will be traced back to them,” said an officer interrogating Khamra.
Talking to Khamra is quite unsettling, police officers involved in the probe said. He shows no remorse. “And he remembers every little detail about everyone he has killed. The victim’s last meal, where they ate, what they wore, where and how he was killed and where exactly the body was dumped. The details are bloodcurdling. In postmortem reports, the injuries were exactly where he had dealt the blows,” added a police officer.
For police, there were more startling disclosures in store. Khamra was most likely influenced by a dreaded killer he called uncle, a man whose name was Ashok Khamra. Ashok himself had admitted to 100 trucker murders when he was arrested in 2010, police said. Ashok drugged his police escort while being brought to Bhopal by train and escaped. He hasn’t been seen since.
In the close-knit Khamra community — a group of hard working, educated people whose forefathers came as refugees from Pakistan — Ashok’s notoriety is a matter of shame. So is Khamra’s now.
A tailor by day and killer by night; Bhopal man murdered 33