Police Arrest Lecturer For Fatal Parcel Bomb Masked As Wedding Gift

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Bhubaneswar: Odisha police on Wednesday arrested an English lecturer of a private college on charges of plotting and executing a bomb blast that killed a newly-wed software engineer, his great-aunt and severely injured his wife two months ago.

The state Criminal Investigation Department (CID) did not arrest anyone else, calling it a “lone-wolf crime”.

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The CID produced the accused, Punjilal Meher, in court and got him on six-day judicial remand for further questioning.

“It’s well established that Punjilal masterminded and executed the crime almost single-handedly. He himself made the bomb” said Odisha director general of police RP Sharma.

The bomb, sent by courier from Chhattisgarh capital Raipur, exploded when Soumya Sekhar Sahu, 26, opened the parcel at his family home in Bolangir’s Patnagarh town on February 23.

The explosion killed him and his great-aunt Jemamani Sahu, 85. The newly-wed bride, Reema, 22, suffered extensive injuries in the explosion and was admitted to hospital for more than a month. Soumya and Reema had been married for five days.

Investigators said Meher, 46, who teaches at Jyoti Vikas College in western Odisha’s Patnagarh town in Bolangir district, was aggrieved over the software engineer’s mother, Sanjukta Sahu, replacing him as the principal. “Before May 2014, when Sanjukta Sahu, a history lecturer, became the principal of the college, Meher was the principal. This rankled Meher and triggered hate and envy in his mind for her,” said CID inspector general Arun Bothra.

“Punjilal was so consumed with hate that he wanted to wipe off her entire family. His intention was to cause the maximum damage and so he chose the timing accordingly,” Bothra added.

Police said Meher watched bomb-making videos on YouTube, scoured the internet for manuals and then erased his search history.

Bothra said Meher purchased a huge amount of firecrackers during Diwali last year and started experimenting.

Before he made the fatal bomb, he dismantled the firecrackers and put the contents inside LED lights used for Diwali decoration and triggered smaller explosions, Bothra added.

According to the CID, the day Meher went to Raipur by train to send the bomb masked as a wedding gift to the Sahu household, he took a class in college and marked his attendance. He did not even buy a ticket for the Raipur journey.

In Raipur, he did not take the parcel to the courier agency on his own, but used an auto driver. Police found a copy of the courier agency’s receipt from his house in Patnagarh town.

The CID said when investigators questioned Meher last month, he sent an “anonymous letter” to the Bolangir superintendent of police, saying innocent people were being harassed unnecessarily and police should look into “love affair angle” in the case.

Police officers who questioned Meher said he was clever and had cleaned up almost all traces of his crime. “He is very sharp. His USP was he never used any associate in his crime. I doubt if his wife knew what he was up to,” said Bothra.

On Tuesday, Meher’s wife, Soudamini, had accused the CID of framing him. “He will never commit such a crime. It is a conspiracy against my husband by the CID because they could not catch the actual culprit,” she had said.

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