The Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI) has identified the suspected killers of economist Sagira Morshed Salam, who was murdered over 30 years ago.
Then an economist at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), she was shot dead by two people on July 25, 1989.
Police arrested four people – Sayedatul Mahmuda Shaheen, 64, Dr Hasan Ali Chowdhury, 70, Anas Mahmud Rezwan, 59, Md Maruf Reza, 49 – accused of planning and committing the murder. All four of them have confessed before the court.
Deputy Inspector General and PBI Chief Banaj Kumar Majumdar revealed this on Thursday at a press briefing held at the PBI headquarters in Dhaka.
The prime accused, Dr Hasan and Sayedatul Mahmuda Shaheen – the in laws of deceased Sagira – conspired to kill the economist over a silly family altercation, said the PBI chief.
He also informed that after getting the direction from the High Court on July 17 this year, they started investigating the case.
"At first we tried to contact the case petitioner and husband of the victim, Abdus Salam Chowdhury. Then we got some clues which helped us identify the conspirators and the killers," Banaj added.
He also informed that Anas Mahmud Rezwan and Md Maruf Reza carried out the plan and made the incident look like a mugging.
In reality, Dr Hasan and his wife Shaheen hired Maruf Reza in exchange for Tk25,000 and Rezwan went with him to identify Sagira at Baily road on the day of the murder.
We investigated every possible person involved in the case and also got to know that at least 26 investigation officers had handled the case, all of whom failed to make a breakthrough, said the PBI chief.
"While meeting me at the PBI office just a few hours before their arrest, the plotters claimed to be innocent," Banaj further said.
Sagira's husband Abdus Salam Chowdhury also told that Shaheen and other sister-in law were jealous of Sagira's educational background.
"They used to argue with Sagira over petty issues. My mother also loved my wife more than them, which motivated them to kill her," Abdus Salam said.
He claimed he had been threatened in anonymous letters and over the phone to withdraw the case filed over Sagira's murder.
"I later decided to not pursue the case as I had three young daughters to raise," he added.
What happened to Sagira Morshed Salam?
On July 25, 1989, the victim Sagira, 34, was going to Viqarunnisa Noon School to pick up her daughter Saharat, by a rickshaw.
However, she never got to pick up her daughter as she was shot to death in front of the school in Bailey Road, Dhaka.
Abdus Salam Chowdhury, husband of the victim, filed a murder case against the unidentified killers with Ramna Police Station on the same day. But the trial proceedings of the case had been stayed for six-month periods, for 28 years, following High Court orders.
Finally, on June 26 this year, the HC bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman lifted the stay order and cleared the way for the lower court to resume its proceedings.
The HC bench also ordered the PBI to complete further investigations into the case within two months and directed the trial court to finish its proceedings within three months.
While delivering the verdict, the HC bench expressed confusion regarding punishment of the muggers who allegedly killed Sagira Morshed as 28 years have passed since the stay order had been issued.
Back in 1987, the HC bench issued the stay order after hearing a petition filed by then suspect Maruf Reza – challenging the trial court's directive in 1991 for conducting further investigation into the case.
Police submitted the charge sheet to the lower court concerned against one Minto alias Mantoo alias Moron. On January 17, 1991, a Dhaka court framed charges against him. The court also recorded statements of seven witnesses in the case.
The name of Maruf Reza, a relative of former home minister Mahmudul Hasan, came to light when the trial court was recording statements of the witnesses.
Then the lower court directed police to further investigate the case on May 23, 1991. Later, Maruf Reza filed a revision petition with the High Court, challenging the lower court order.
Following this, the High Court on July 2, 1991, stayed the trial proceedings of the case and further investigation into the murder.
Reza, who had been arrested, was later exempted from the case.
Minto, who had also been arrested in connection with the case, was also released on bail. PBI has not found his involvement in the murder.