Former superintendent of police Babul Akter – a senior law enforcer with years of experience – broke down in tears after hearing that his wife Mahmuda Akter Mitu was brutally murdered in broad daylight.
Babul's grieving face became a permanent reminder of this tragedy. But as more and more details about the murder emerged over the last five years, Babul – initially a plaintiff in the Mitu murder case – turned into the remanded prime accused in a cruel twist of irony.
The Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI) recently claimed that a financial transaction of Tk3 lakh was carried out by one of Babul's friends before the killing took place and this information linked Babul to the killing.
Moreover, a man named Musa, an alleged police informer who is close to Babul, was at the scene of the gruesome murder. A 27-second long mobile conversation between Babul and Musa leaked weeks after the murder also sparked suspicion over their possible involvement.
Following Mitu's murder, Musa became the prime accused in the case, and he remains one of the most wanted people in the country till this day as the law enforcers are yet to track him down. And now Babul, who lost his job in September 2016, is being put on trial.
Mitu was hacked and shot dead by attackers in Chattogram while on her way to pick up her son from school on 5 June 2016. Babul, who was in Dhaka, filed a murder case a day later. The incident shook Bangladesh to its core – despite it being no stranger to violence on the streets.
The detective police had been investigating the case since the beginning. However, after nearly three years of investigation produced no results, the court ordered the PBI to investigate the case in March last year.
In the last five years, both the Detective Branch and the PBI had interrogated Babul and many others numerous times in a bid to shed more light on the case. But only recently the law enforcers made enough headway to take the former SP into custody.
On 6 May this year, PBI officials called Babul in for questioning in connection with the Mitu murder case, but he declined to meet them on that day. The former SP went to the PBI office on 10 May along with two of his friends, and was promptly taken into custody for interrogation.
The PBI later the same day took Babul and his friends to its Chattogram office, and had declined to share any details about the matter to the media until a day later. On Tuesday, PBI Chief Banaj Kumar Majumder confirmed that the trio is in custody.
Adding that Babul's friends Gazi Al Mamun and Saiful Haque were interrogated in his presence, Majumder said, "The duo gave statements under Section-164. Based on their statements, the police later submitted the final report for the first case – where Babul Akter was the plaintiff.
"Mitu's father Mosharraf Hossain filed a fresh murder case accusing Babul and seven others on 12 May."
He continued, "We have shown Babul as arrested in that case, because he made some financial transitions with his friends before and after the murder. These matters were mentioned in the statements given by Babul's two friends."
Hossain – the plaintiff of the new murder case filed at Chattogram's Panchlaish Police Station on Wednesday – alleged that Babul had an affair with another woman, and the stormy issue eventually led to the murder of his daughter.
Babul now faces charges of "planning and ordering" the murder of his wife.
A suspicious phone call
Babul had, at one time, served the Chattogram Metropolitan Police and earned praise for his anti-militant work. Mitu was gruesomely murdered in the port city a few days after Babul joined the police headquarters in Dhaka, following promotion and transfer.
On the very day Mitu's murder took place, the then SP Babul Akter made a call to Musa around 7:37am. The 27-second long record of the mobile phone conversation is both the main clue and evidence in Mitu murder case.
As soon as Musa received the phone call and greeted Babul Akhter, he said, "Why did you hack (Tui Kopaili Kyan)?" He stopped for 3/4 seconds and said again, "Tell me, why did you hack? (Bol, tui kopaili kyan?) Did I ask you to hack? (Tore kopaite koichhi?)"
Musa just replied "Na mane (can roughly be translated as – I do not know what to say)," and Babul Akter then hung up the phone.
On the night of 24 June that year, 19 days after the murder, law enforcers took Babul to Dhaka Metropolitan Police's detective branch office from his father-in-law's house in Meradia and interrogated him for about 15 hours.
A few months later, the home ministry fired Babul Akhter from his police job.
PBI officials said the leaked recorded call was the only clue they had and Musa was considered as the most wanted person in connection with the killing. Following this clue, the PBI began digging out more information about Babul's possible involvement with the murder.
Musa's wife Panna Akter also told The Business Standard that Babul Akter had called her husband between 18 and 19 June. "I could not hear anything clearly from the other side, but my husband replied that if something were to happen to our family he would expose the truth.
"The police later detained Musa in handcuffs on 22 June in 2016, but he was later declared missing. For the sake of unearthing the truth, people should know about Musa's whereabouts."
'Babul orchestrated the murder'
Plaintiff of the new murder case, the victim's father Mosharraf Hossain told the media that Babul used to quarrel with Mitu after beginning an extramarital affair, and this is why Babul "orchestrated" her murder five years ago.
The other accused in the case are – Qamrul Islam Sikder aka Musa, known as a 'source' for Babul, Ehteshamul Haque Bhola, Motaleb Mia aka Wasim, Md Anwar, Saidul Alam Sikder aka Sakku, Shajahan and Kalu.
"The PBI informed me that an investigation had found Babul's involvement in the case," said Hossain, a former police officer.
Babul was the alleged planner. Law enforcers have investigated the other suspects during the course of an investigation into the first case filed by Babul immediately after Mitu's murder.
Legal procedure for the previous case effectively ended after the PBI submitted its final report to the court on 12 May. The new case filed by Hossain will give the legal proceedings centring Mitu's killing a fresh start.
In the case statement, the plaintiff claimed that Babul began an extramarital affair with an NGO worker named Gayatri Amar Singh while he was posted in Cox's Bazar as additional SP. This caused a rift between Mitu and Babul's marital relationship.
Mitu informed her parents about the mental and physical torture she had to endure feuding with babul after she learned about her husband's alleged affair.
Hossain also mentioned some of the conversations between Babul and Gayatri confirming their relationship, which Mitu had collected before she was killed.
The case's Investigation Officer Santosh Kumar Chakma said after a court placed Babul in a 5-day remand on 12 June, law enforcers are interrogating him for further details about the murder.
What do the PBI say?
On Wednesday's press conference, PBI Chief Banaj Kumar Majumder said the investigation had found evidence linking Babul to Mitu's murder.
He continued, "The PBI called Babul last Thursday [6 May], but he said he would arrive at 9am on Monday [10 May]. He could not answer some of the questions appropriately. These issues have been reported to the IGP and the home minister.
"Under these circumstances, there is no chance for us to take a step back."
Regarding Musa's possible role in the killing, the PBI chief said, "Musa was seen on the spot during the murder. He used to visit Babul's residence regularly. He even used to buy daily essentials for Babul Akter's family."
Another PBI official, on condition of anonymity, told The Business Standard they had found evidence that Babul requested one of his friends to pay TK3 lakh to Musa and his associates before Mitu's murder, and this transaction might be related to the killing.
Following Mitu's murder on 5 June 2016, the police arrested several people – Anwar, Wasim, Abu Nasur Gunnu, Shah Zaman alias Robin, Saidul Alam Sikder alias Sakku, and Shahjahan. They also arrested alleged firearms supplier Ehteshamul Haque Bhola and his associate Md Monir.
On the night of 24 June 2016, Babul was interrogated for about 15 hours at the Dhaka Detective Police Office. The home ministry fired him on 7 September that year.
2 suspects die in 'gunfight'
According to police investigation, Musa – who worked as babul's informer – had hired Motaleb Mia Wasim, Anwar Hossain, Nurul Islam Rashed, Nur Nabi, Kalu and Md Shahjahan to kill Mitu, while Ehteshamul Haque supplied the firearms for committing the murder.
During interrogation on 27 December 2017 at the CMP headquarters, Babul admitted that Musa was his informant.
Over the course of the last five years, police arrested several people including Motaleb Mia Wasim, Anwar Hossain, firearms supplier Ehteshamul Haque, Md Shahjahan and Musa's elder brother Saidul Sikder Shakur.
According to police sources, Wasim and Anwar have given confessional statements before a court, implicating seven people who had participated in the killing mission directly.
The prime suspects Musa and Kalu are still on the run, while Nurul Islam Rashed and Nur Nabi, whose names were mentioned in the confessional statements of Anwar and Wasim, were killed in "gunfights" with police in July 2016 in Chattogram.
On 6 October 2016, the CMP issued a bounty of Tk5 lakh for any information leading to Musa.
Musa's wife Panna Akter repeatedly claimed that her husband had been picked up by a team of plainclothes police from the Bandar area on 22 June in 2016, but the police have firmly rejected that claim.