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Robbery gone wrong or ‘accidental killing’?

Praveen Mediratta and his family members Sudesh, Priyanka and Saurabh Kataria were found murdered on November 9

Residents of Sector 7, Faridabad, National Capital Region, are in a state of shock. On the afternoon of November 9, four members of a family were found dead in their home. The bodies of Dr Praveen Mediratta, his wife Sudesh, their daughter Priyanka and son-in-law Saurabh Kataria were lying in a pool of blood in House Number 19. The police have confirmed that they were stabbed to death.

The prime suspect is a face familiar to many in the area: Mukesh, a trainer at a local gym. Mukesh is absconding since November 10, but the police say he has left a note saying he “accidentally” killed four people and “might commit suicide”. Relatives of the murdered family claim Mukesh intended to rob the house, but initial investigations by the police have not confirmed this.

Mukesh worked at the gym, The Den, for six years. On Friday, November 8, he left work early, saying he had to attend a wedding.

“He usually leaves at 10 pm. On Friday, he asked permission to leave at 9 pm,” says the owner of The Den, asking not to be named. “I asked, ‘Why are you going so early for a wedding?’ He said his family was also attending and he wanted to meet them earlier.”

Mukesh left the gym and collected clothes he had given for ironing from a local ironing stand.

The next morning, he was at work as usual. According to the owner, his hands were “wounded” and bandaged. “He said a dog jumped in front of his scooter and he fell down,” the gym owner says. “I asked him to leave work early and take rest.”

CCTV footage acquired by the police shows a grey scooter outside the Medirattas’ home at 10.30 pm on Friday. A man wearing a helmet is seen entering the house. Neighbours claim the Medirattas’ dog, Ruby, barked throughout the night. But this is par for the course, they say. Praveen Mediratta worked at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences before setting up a clinic and X-ray diagnostic lab at his house. Patients sometimes visited him late at night, and the dog would bark at them.

According to reports, the TV was on in the house, with the volume set high.

The neighbours sensed something was amiss when Praveen Mediratta did not emerge for his regular morning walk with Ruby on Saturday. The household help had come that morning but left when the door was not opened. The newspaper lay outside the front door and the house was quiet. Calls to Mediratta’s mobile phone went unanswered.

Neighbours noticed the door to the house’s basement was open. Peeking through the window, they saw bloodstains on the floor, and immediately called the police.

The police investigation

Assistant Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, Anil Kumar, told Newslaundry the furniture in the house was “scattered”, showing signs of a scuffle. Mediratta’s body was found in the basement. The bodies of Sudesh, Priyanka and Saurabh Kataria were in the hall and a bedroom.

Mukesh is one of the police’s “few prime suspects”, Kumar says, based on the CCTV footage and an analysis of the mobile phones in use in the area at that time of the night. He was promptly detained and questioned on Saturday.

“We asked him, ‘What were you doing in this area at that time?’ He said he worked nearby and used this route,” Kumar says.

Mukesh was asked to present himself before the police on Sunday. He did not turn up and has been missing ever since. Kumar says, “He informed his mother that he was leaving for Haridwar and we haven’t been able to find him.”

The police searched Mukesh’s house. They found a note on the refrigerator, allegedly written by Mukesh. Newslaundry did not get to see the note but Kumar confirmed that it said Mukesh had “killed four people accidently in an attempt to rob” and that he would “commit suicide”.

According to The Indian Express, the police also found a pair of blood-soaked trousers and a blood-stained key at Mukesh’s house.

Initial investigations yielded no prima facie evidence of robbery. ACP Anil Kumar says, “There was no proof of robbery as, more or less, the cupboard and other parts of the house were not scuffled. In fact, the ornaments on their bodies were also not touched.”

Gulshan Khurana, a relative of the family, says there was “blood everywhere” in the house. “The scene was gory. I haven’t seen anything like that in movies. The whole house was in a pool of blood.”

Khurana says, “Some artificial jewellery was on the bed which was not even used by her [Sudesh]. The cupboard looked intact except for the locker which was open.” He adds that he saw two purses in the house which, according to him, belonged to Sudesh but were hardly used by her. He wonders why they were out.

The money angle

Several people told Newslaundry Mukesh had, in the past, borrowed money from them. Crime Branch officials said he had taken a loan of “at least Rs 1 lakh” from people he trained at the gym.

A woman who trained under him at the gym for five years claims she lent Mukesh Rs 50,000. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, she says, “He has a son who is less than two months old. At the time of delivery, Mukesh came to me saying his wife was facing a lot of complications and an operation was required, and he needed a huge amount of money. I trusted him completely. I didn’t have the money so I borrowed it from my boss. My family doesn’t know. He said he would return it in a few months.”

Mukesh earned Rs 16,000 per month at The Den. He got a little more for personal training or dietary consultation for members of the gym.

While Newslaundry was speaking to people at The Den, officials from the Faridabad Police Crime Branch barged in with Mukesh’s brother Lala. They peppered the gym’s employees with questions: What kind of person was Mukesh? What kind of clothes did he wear? Did he like fancy brands?

Gym members this correspondent spoke to said Mukesh wore “simple sports clothes”. His colleagues described him as “jovial”.

The only surviving member of the family is the doctor’s son Darpan. He’s reportedly a member of the gym and, therefore, knows Mukesh. Darpan works in Gurugram.

Some members of the gym allege that Darpan “didn’t get along with his family, especially his mother”. This is rubbished by his relatives and neighbours. Siddharth Rawat, one of the neighbours, says, “We have never seen Mukesh coming to the house or them hanging out. They knew each other as he used to go to the gym. So they’d just say ‘Hi, hello’ whenever they met.”

Pradeep Mediratta, Praveen’s younger brother, agrees. He says Darpan is “disturbed” by this gossip. “He can’t take these accusations. He’s now staying with a friend and doesn’t want to talk to anyone,” he says. “He hardly knew Mukesh. Mukesh borrowed shoes from Darpan twice — and that is it.”

The CCTV footage accessed by the police was acquired from a camera Rawat had installed outside his house. Rawat says the footage shows someone wearing a helmet entering the house. “The footage shows him outside the gate at about 10.10 pm. He waited for 20 minutes and went inside the house at around 10.30 pm.”

The Medirattas have lived in this house for 25 years. “He was a soft-spoken person,” says Beena Rawat, a neighbour, about Praveen Mediratta. “They were all well-educated, all of them were working. We never heard or saw him fighting or getting angry with anyone.”

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