Hema Upadhyay
The Mumbai Police is questioning artists who could have helped Vidyadhar Rajbhar, the main accused. Picture: Installation artist Hema UpadhyayWikimedia Commons/Art fundamental

A court in Mumbai on Tuesday sent Chintan Upadhyay -- arrested in connection with the murders of his wife Hema Upadhyay and her lawyer Harish Bhambani -- to police custody till 1 January.

The Mumbai Police had arrested Chintan early on Tuesday after an overnight questioning. They later produced him before the Metropolitan Magistrate's court in Borivali to seek his custody for further questioning.

The bodies of installation artist Hema and Bhambani were recovered from a drain in Kandivali on the evening of 12 December, a day after they went missing. The Mumbai Police arrested four people in connection with the case within the next four days, and are still on the lookout for main accused Vidyadhar Rajbhar.

Of the four arrested accused, three are Rajbhar's aides and the fourth is the driver of the tempo that was used to dump the bodies. The court also extended the police custody of four other accused till 28 December.

Chintan came under the scanner of the police after Hema's parents said they "strongly suspected Mr Upadhyay's role behind the conspiracy to kill his wife".

The police have questioned Chintan often since 13 December and found several discrepancies in his statement, according to reports.

During investigation, the police found out that Chintan and Rajbhar shared "numerous calls" around a fortnight before Hema and Bhambani were murdered. Chintan was unable to explain the phone calls between the two of them.

Chintan had filed for a divorce in 2010 at a family court and was granted one. The family court asked Chintan to pay Rs 16 lakh to Hema who had spent the amount in the renovation of their home in Juhu, The Indian Express reported.

The divorce was, however, challenged in the Bombay High Court. She had demanded alimony from Chintan.

Police hunt main accused Rajbhar

The Mumbai Police are on the lookout for the absconding metal fabrication artist, Rajbhar, who had called Hema and her lawyer at his godown on the day they were murdered to discuss a property dispute. Hema used to store her paintings at Rajbhar's godown.

Rajbhar's aides had told interrogators that he was only trying to scare the duo when they had come to the godown.

"The trio have said in their interrogation that after an argument broke out between Vidyadhar and Hema, he picked up a cloth and dipped it in a can of chloroform. He soaked the cloth in chloroform and held it over Hema's face, at which point Bhambhani intervened. This resulted in Vidyadhar hitting Bhambhani. Shivkumar then helped overpower Bhambhani, by which time Hema had gone limp," The Hindu quoted an officer as saying.

When they realised that Hema was dead, they killed Bhambani as well. They then packed their bodies in cardboard boxes, meant to parcel paintings and other articles, and dumped it in the drain.

The cardboard boxes were spotted by a ragpicker who informed the Laljipada police. The police then recovered the bodies that were stripped down to their undergarments and their hands and legs were tied. The bodies were sent to Bhagwati Hospital for post mortem.

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