Raman Raghav (1 Viewer)


Raman Raghav

On August 13, 1969, officials in Bombay, India, announced that 40-year-old Raman Raghav had been sentenced to hang following his conviction of multiple murders.

According to sketchy reports, the defendant openly confessed to slaying forty-one men, women, and children, selected at random for the sheer pleasure of killing.

Raman Raghav (1929–1995) was a psychopathic serial killer who operated in the city of Mumbai (then Bombay), India in the mid-1960s. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia after his arrest. Very little is known about Raghav's early life or circumstances that led him to commit the crimes.

Serial Killings

A series of brutal murders in the outskirts of Mumbai (then Bombay) rocked the city in August 1968. Pavement and hutment dwellers were bludgeoned to death while they slept. All the murders took place at night and were committed by using a hard and blunt object.

The Mumbai police and the media realised that a serial killer was operating in the city. A similar series of murders had taken some years earlier (1965-66) in the Eastern suburbs of Mumbai. In that year, as many as 19 people had been attacked, out of whom 9 victims had died. At the time a suspicious looking man found loitering in the area had been picked up by the police.

His name was Raman Raghav, a homeless man, and he was already in police files, having spent 5 years in prison for robbery. However, as no hard evidence could be found against him (none of the survivors had seen this man) the police let him go. When the killer struck again in 1968 the police launched a manhunt for him. Ramakant Kulkarni, then the Deputy Commissioner of Police CID (Crime) took over the investigation and spearheaded a massive combing operation in the city.

This time the police not only managed to nab him, they got him to confess. He admitted that he had killed 23 people in 1966 along the GIP (Great Indian Peninsular Railway as Southern Railway was known then) line and almost a dozen in 1968 in the suburbs.

However, it is likely that he killed many more. It was his casual approach to killing that led the police to suspect that he did not remember the exact number of people he had killed. During the time Raman Raghav was in operation, there was widespread public anxiety and panic in Mumbai. Inhabitants of slums and apartments dreaded sleeping out in the open or with open windows and balconies.


Sub-inspector of police Alex Fialho recognised Raman Raghav from file photographs and descriptions provided by those who had seen him. Fialho detained and searched him in the presence of two respectable witnesses from the area. The suspect gave his name as Raman Raghav, but old records disclosed that he had several aliases like "Sindhi Dalwai", "Talwai", "Anna", "Thambi" and "Veluswami".

The suspect carried, on his person, a pair of spectacles, two combs, a pair of scissors, a stand for burning incense, soap, garlic, tea dust and two pieces of paper with some mathematical figures. The bush shirt and khaki shorts which he was wearing had bloodstains and his shoes were full of mud.

His fingerprints with those on record confirmed that the suspect was indeed Raman Raghav alias Sindhi Dalwai. He was arrested under section 302 IPC on charge of the murder of two persons, (1) Lalchand Jagannat Yadav and (2) Dular Jaggi Yadav at Chinchawli village, Malad, Greater Bombay. He was described as tall, well-built and dark-complexioned.

Investigation and Trial

The preliminary trial was held in the court of Additional Chief Presidency Magistrate. For a long time, Raghav refused to answer questions. However, he began to answer their questions after the police fulfilled his request for dishes of chicken to eat. He then gave a detailed testimony, describing his weapon, and his modus operandi.

After this the case was committed to Sessions court, Mumbai. When the trial started in the court of Additional Session Judge, Mumbai on 2 June 1969, the counsel for defense made an application that the accused was incapable of defending himself on account of unsoundness of mind and he also submitted that even at the time of committing the alleged offenses the accused was of unsound mind and incapable of knowing the nature of his acts or that they were contrary to the law.

The accused was therefore sent to the Police Surgeon, Mumbai, who observed him from 28 June 1969 to 23 July 1969 and opined that, "The accused is neither suffering from psychosis nor mentally retarded. His memory is sound, his intelligence average and is aware of the nature and purpose of his acts. He is able to understand the nature and object of the proceedings against him and not certifiably insane."

With this medical opinion, the trial proceeded. The accused pleaded guilty. During the trial a psychiatrist of Nair Hospital, Mumbai was cited as a defense witness. He had interviewed the accused in Arthur Road Prison on 5 August 1969 and gave evidence that the accused was suffering from Chronic paranoid schizophrenia for a long time and was therefore unable to understand that his actions were contrary to law.

In defense, it was said, "The accused did commit the act of killing with which he is charged. He knew the nature of the act, viz. killing human beings, but did not know, wither it was wrong or contrary to law". The Additional Sessions Judge, Mumbai, Held the accused guilty of the charge of murder and sentenced him to death. Raman declined to appeal.

Before confirming the sentence, the High Court of Mumbai ordered that the Surgeon General, Mumbai, should constitute a Special Medical Board of three psychiatrists to determine whether the accused was of unsound mind, and secondly, whether in consequence of his unsoundness of mind, he was incapable of making his defense.

The members of the Special Medical Board interviewed Raman on five different occasions for about two hours each time. In their final interview when they bade him good bye and attempted to shake hands with him, he refused to do so saying that he was a representative of 'Kanoon' (God) who would not touch people belonging to this wicked world. The examination report was as follows.

Details about childhood history are not available. No reliable history about mental Illness in his family is obtainable. According to the data available, He was always in the habit of stealing ever since he was a child. He hardly had any school education. He was known to be reclusive. Since his return from Pune in 1968 he had been living in jungles outside the suburbs of Mumbai.

X-rays of skull, routine blood examination, serological tests for syphilis, cerebrospinal fluid examination including tests for syphilis, urine and stool examination and EEG examination were non contributory. He was of average intelligence and there is no organic disease to account for his mental condition.

Throughout the five interviews he showed ideas of reference and fixed and systematized delusions of persecution and grandeur. The delusions which the accused experienced were as follows:

* That there are two distinct worlds, the world of 'Kanoon' and this world in which he lived.

* A fixed and unshakable belief that people were trying to change his sex, but that they are not successful, because he was a representative of 'Kanoon'.

* A fixed and unshakable belief that he is a power or 'Shakti'.

* A firm belief that other people are trying to put homosexual temptations in his way so that he may succumb and get converted to a woman.

* That homosexual intercourse would convert him into a woman.

* That he was "101 percent man". He kept on repeating this.

* A belief that the government brought him to Mumbai to commit thefts and made him commit criminal acts.

* An unshakable belief that there are three governments in the country - the Akbar Government, the British Government, and the Congress Government and that these Governments are trying to persecute him and put temptations before him.

The final verdict

Raman Raghav's sentence was reduced to life imprisonment because he was found to be incurably mentally ill. He was lodged at Yerwada jail, Pune, and was under treatment at the Central Institute of Mental Health and Research. When a panel of doctors who examined him at the directive of the High Court found that he would never be cured, the High Court reduced his sentence to life imprisonment in its judgement of 4th August 1987. A few months later Raghav died at Sassoon Hospital. He had been suffering from kidney trouble.


Raman Raghav is thought to be India's worst and most horrific serial killer. Indian filmmaker Sriram Raghavan produced a 45-minute short film on Raman Raghav, starring Raghuvir Yadav in the lead role. In the mid-1980s, another serial killer emerged in Mumbai, terrorising the population of Sion and neighbouring localities. Given the nickname "Stoneman," he was not captured despite intensive efforts of police.

Recalling Raman Raghav- Mumbai's serial killer

In August 1968, I took over as Deputy Commissioner of Police, CID (Crime), the youngest officer until then, to shoulder the responsibilities attached to that formidable post. Traditionally, veteran detectives had held that post. My appointment, therefore, raised many eyebrows.

Hardly had I settled in when a series of murders reported from the outskirts of the city, caught the public imagination. The victims in all cases were poor people living in ramshackle huts and temporary structures, who eked out their living rather precariously.

One common feature was that all the victims had head injuries inflicted by a hard and blunt object while they were asleep. The murders were apparently motiveless and even in cases that involved petty gain, the violence inflicted on the victims was totally disproportionate to the gain.

In that year, as many as nineteen persons had been attacked while asleep and all of them had received head injuries. While nine of them had succumbed to their injuries, none of the survivors, unfortunately, could recollect anything useful enough to establish the identity of the assailant. I learnt that most of the victims were residents of hutments constructed along a municipal water pipe line, popularly known as the ‘duct line’.

The local police had introduced round-the-clock patrolling along the ‘duct line’ and before long the police party had picked up a suspicious character found prowling in that area. The suspect gave his name as ‘Raman Raghav’, but old records disclosed that he had several aliases like ‘Sindhi Dalwai’, ‘Talwai’, ‘Anna’, ‘Thambi’ and ‘Veluswami’.

His fingerprints were on record and his case history revealed that he had as many as nine previous convictions, mostly for property offences. He had suffered imprisonment for five years for robbery, although the initial charge against him had been of murder coupled with robbery.

The proponents of environmental criminology talk of the ‘geometry of crime’, according to which crimes usually occur at a safe distance though not far from the place of residence or work of the culprit, as he is familiar with the area.

At the same time, the area around his residence or place of work is relatively free from his depredations, for the simple reason that he is known in that locality and is likely to be identified. It was time now to trace him, but tracing persons with no fixed place of residence, in a sprawling and congested city like Bombay, is indeed a formidable task.

Soon, however, we had a major breakthrough. An alert sub-inspector of police named Alex Fialho noticed during patrolling, a person wearing khaki shorts, a blue bush shirt and a pair of canvas shoes. He also carried an umbrella. Sub-inspector Fialho detained and searched him in the presence of two respectable witnesses from the area, as required by law.

The suspect carried, on his person, a pair of spectacles, two combs, a pair of scissors, a stand for burning incense, soap, garlic, tea dust and two pieces of paper with some mathematical figures. The bush shirt and khaki shorts, which he was wearing had bloodstains and the crevices in his shoes were full of mud.

A quick comparison of his fingerprints with those on record confirmed that the suspect was indeed Raman Raghav alias Sindhi Dalvai. The news of his arrest spread like wildfire and large crowds gathered at Crawford Market, where the offices of the Commissioner of Police and the Crime Branch (CID) are located. The Police Commissioner, Mr Modak, felicitated Sub-inspector Fialo and sanctioned him a spot reward of Rs 1,000.

The news of the arrest made headlines in all the evening papers that day. The celebration, however, was short-lived and our real ordeal began soon. If earlier experiences were any indication, the interrogation of this suspect, however intensive or prolonged, was unlikely to yield any tangible results.

There was no guarantee that things would be any different now. Two days passed. The suspect continued to maintain a studied silence. Confirmed cynics and a section of the press became more suspicious by the hour and their biting criticism was sometimes unnerving.

Even the robust enthusiasm of some of our seasoned officers like Basil Kane, Vakatkar, Pendse and Dalvi started showing signs of flagging. In desperation, I sent up a fervent prayer and the Lord answered it readily.

We were sitting in the interrogation room of the Crime Branch (CID) when rather casually someone asked Raman Raghav whether there was anything, which he wanted very much to have. Without a moment’s thought, without even batting an eyelid, Raman Raghav said, “Murgi.”

A resourceful officer promptly fetched from a nearby restaurant, a dish of chicken with gravy. Raman Raghav must have relished it immensely for he licked his lips as he finished his repast. When asked what else he would like to have he repeated murgi. In due course, he had a second helping as well.

Next, he wanted hair oil, a comb and a mirror. “I would also have liked a prostitute, but I guess, the law does not permit that, while one is in custody,” he added, rather ruefully. Somebody brought him a bottle of perfumed coconut oil, with which he massaged his entire body, appreciating the fragrance of the oil.

After he had combed his hair, he looked admiringly at his own face in the mirror for a long, long time. Then, he adopted a very erect posture and with an air of supreme importance, asked us, ‘Now tell me, what do you want?’ An impetuous officer standing close to him piped up. ‘Of course, we want to know about the murders.’

‘Maardaars?’ he asked, with a strong, South Indian slang. ‘Well, I shall tell you all about them,’ he added. ‘Get a vehicle, an armed guard and two witnesses. The law requires that.’

‘We should like to know, at the outset, where you have hidden your weapon.’

‘Yes, yes. I shall show you that too,’ he replied. ‘I will point out the iron akada used for doing khatam, as also a jemmy, knives and other things which I have concealed in the bushes at Aarey colony,’ he added.

Excerpted from Footprints on the Sands of Crime by Ramakant Kulkarni, retired director general of police, Maharashtra state; published by Macmillan India, Rs 245

India’s most notorious serial killer - the madman Raman Raghav

January 1, 2007

With kid killers Surendra and Monindar Singh being dubbed as the country’s worst serial killers, another devilish serial killer came to my mind. In fact this serial killer (Raman Raghav) was so coldblooded and unfeeling that I was reminded of Saddam Hussain and his dead eyes! Saddam was a serial killer alright, though I don’t know whether he bloodied his hands. One thing is for sure - he was a man without a conscience, a man for whom killing another was easier than swatting a fly. And I could not help wondering whether the mind of Raman Raghav could offer a clue into the mind of Saddam.

Footprints in the Sands of Crime

Some years earlier I had bought a book called ‘The Footprints on the Sands of Crime,’ by Ramakant Kulkarni, the cop who had brought Raman Raghav to book. Kulkarni was the Deputy Commissioner of Police CID (Crime) at the time. He was often referred to as ‘Sherlock Holmes’ by the media and later rose to be the Director General of Police, Maharashtra State. His book is a simply written treatise with detailed and well documented descriptions of his various cases ranging from highway murders, smuggling incidents, bomb blasts to note counterfeiting and the assasination of Indira Gandhi. (By the way, he is not related to me though we share the same name.)

In this post I will give a very short synopsis of his chapter on the serial killer Raman Raghav, who has till now been known as India’s worst serial killer.

Renewed serial killings

Raman Raghav was a poor homeless man and his victims were also poor. His modus operandi was simple and also identical for all the murders. He killed his victims when they were sleeping by hitting them with a hard and blunt object. As his victims either lived on the pavements or in ‘ramshackle huts’, it was not difficult for the killer to approach the victims. What made everyone’s skin crawl however was that the killings did not appear to be for gain. Even when some money was found to be missing in some cases, it did not warrant the gruesome killings. He just seemed to want to kill anyone who got in the way.

When DCP Kulkarni took over the case (1968), several murders had taken place in this manner. This brought to light the fact that just a few years earlier, in 1965-66, there had been a similar string murders - as many as 19 attacks in which 9 people had died.

Raghav had been picked up by the police, but allowed to go

At the time a suspicious looking guy seen in the vicinity had been picked up and questioned by the police - a man by the name of Raman Raghav. He was already a felon, having served five years in prison for robbery, although the initial charge against him had been that of robbery and murder. The murder charge was never proved. Detective Inspector Vakatkar, who had questioned Raman Raghav at the time recalled that ‘he was a hard nut to crack.’ Vakatkar also mentioned a pocket diary had been recovered from Raghav in which he had penned words like Khatam and Khallas, which means: Finished. However, at the time no hard evidence could be found against Raghav and the police had let him go with the admonition to get out of Bombay.

Had Raghav returned?

In his book, DCP Kulkarni mentions a theory of ‘Environment Criminology’ about the ‘geometry of crime.’ The theory suggests that crime ocurrs ‘within a safe distance’ from the perpetrator’s home but at the same time not too far away as he likes an area he is familiar with. Thus, after the DCP and his team got hold of Raghav’s old file (which had his fingerprints, photographs and names of acquaintences), a massive manhunt was launched for the man, with a special focus in the area where the murders were being committed. After weeks of a painstaking search, the police finally managed to find an old acquaintance of his called Manjulabai, a maid. She told them that she had seen Raghav recently in the area but had no idea where he lived.

So, Raghav was back.

More proof

While this search was going on, the police managed to match the fingerprints of Raghav to the recent crime scenes. However, finding Raghav was difficult in the sprawling city like Mumbai. He had no address. Finally however, an alert sub-inspector of police, Alex Fialho, spotted and arrested him. Raghav’s clothes found to be blood-stained and a fingerprint comparision revealed that this man was indeed Raman Raghav alias Sindhi Dalvai.

Raghav was reluctant to talk

However, as Ramakant Kulkarni writes, the ordeal had just begun. The suspect maintained a ’studied silence’ throughout the questioning and it looked like they would never get him to talk.

The breakthrough came one day when one of the offiicers casually asked Raghav whether he needed anything. The suspect’s immediately opened his mouth and asked for Murgi (chicken). After this was provided to him, he asked for another dish of chicken curry and rice. Then he demanded hair oil, a comb, and a mirror! Then cheekily he added, ‘I would also like a prostitute but I guess the law will not allow that.’ After the oil came he applied the perfumed coconut oil to his whole body and then kept staring at his reflection in the mirror. Then after admiring himself for quite a while, he at last turned to the policemen and said, ‘Now tell me - what do you want?’

‘We want to know all about the murders,’ said a young officer.

‘Maardaar?’ he asked. ‘Well, I shall tell you all about them. Get a vehicle, an armed guard and two witnesses. The law requires that. And I shall show you the iron akada I used to commit the murders, knives and other things which I have hidden in the bushes at Aarey Colony.’

They got the proof

And indeed Raghav did lead the police to a thorny bush from where he pulled out an iron fulcrum jimmy which he had referred to as an akada. Ramakant Kulkarni describes it thus: ‘It was an octagonal rod bent at one end and tapering at another. The circumference at the thicker end measured four inches. There were what looked like bloodstains near the bend of the jimmy.’ Raghav also produced knives, a screwdriver, an iron jimmy, a coloured napkin and a torch. The napkin was his ‘loot’ from a double murder!

A guy called Michael who had made the akada for Raghav told the police that he came from the same district at Raghav in Tamil Nadu and knew him as Tambi. He remembered that Tambi’s roommate had been found dead, but had not suspected his friend. Therefore when Tambi asked for the crowbar he gave it to him. Tambi turned up three days later but refused the cup of tea that Michael offered him, saying that he had an objection to drinking tea ‘in the house of a Christian’! Michael then asked him to return the crowbar, but Tambi flew into a rage and walked out.

Raghav took the cops on a tour of the Borivili (suburb of Mumbai) hills and produced items like a stove, an umbrella etc which he had stolen from his victims. And over the next few days Raghav gave the gory details of the murders he had committed. He agreed to make a full confession in the presence of a magistrate. When asked by the magistrate as to why he wanted to confess, he said it was God’s directive.

The DCP says that he puzzled over Raghav’s confession for several years, not quite understanding why he had confessed. Until he read a book called ‘Criminal Investigation’ by Aubry and Caputo. In this book, the authors said: ‘The key to sucessful interrogation of psychopaths lies within the personality structure of the individual himself. For some, conscience does not matter and the ability to distinguish between right and wrong is missing. Therefore the classical approach to interrogation which depends on the repetition of the theme of good and bad, right and wrong will have little effect on such a mind. Simply agreeing with such an individual can be an effective technique.’ Once friendliness and understanding is offered, the individual might wish to ‘repay’ this kindness by giving the interrogator what he wants.

A few excerpts from Raghav’s confession

The following excerpts gives us a peek into this serial killer’s mind:

“At Poisar, off the Ahmedabad road, I saw a woman and child sleeping inside a hut, where a man was sleeping outside. I hit the man on the head, and he got up shouting. I hit him again till he died. The girl also started shouting and I ran away.”

“On the Malad side of the Ahmedabad road, I saw a hamlet and some stables. A bearded Muslim was sleeping on a cot. The door of the hamlet was not locked. I hit him on the way in and he died on the spot. I took his wristwatch and when I saw some money in his jhabba which was hanging inside, I put the jhabba in my bag. I also took some groundnuts in a bottle, an umbrella, and a torch. Once home, I removed the money from the jhabba and tore it to make hankerchiefs.”

“A few days later I saw a hut in the same area. I peeped inside and saw a woman, and a child. She was wearing a gold necklace. I kept watch until one day I found her sleeping and her husband beside her. I cut the string which fastened the front door and then hit the man with an iron rod until he died. The woman and child were shouting and I hit them both and killed them. I was thinking of sleeping with the woman but someone came and I ran away. The gold necklace turned out to be imitation gold.

“I found a woman and two children sleeping in a hut. I hit her twice or thrice until she died. I removed her cover and found that she was nude….” This is too disturbing for me to pen here.

Raghav was suspected to be mad

Raman Raghav was examined by a Dr. Patkar, a psychiatrist, who diagnosed him as suffering from ‘chronic paranoid schizophrenia.’ Dr. Master who had also examined Raghav concluded that Raghav was ‘normal’.

After weighing all the pros and cons, the additional sessions judge found Raghav guilty of murder and because this case was ‘unparalleled and unsurpassed in the history of crime’, the penalty given was death. Even though Raghav himself did not appeal against this sentence, this sentence had to be ‘confirmed’ by the High Court as per the law. The High Court directed a panel of three psychiatrists to examine the convict. The psychiatrists found him of ‘unsound mind’ and thus Raghav’s death sentence was held in abeyance. In the meantime he was sent to Yerwada prison and he remained under treatment at the Central Institute of Mental Health and Research.

The verdict

Finally, under their judgement of 4th August 1987, the court set aside the death penalty and sentenced Raman Raghav to imprisonment for life as they believed that Raghav (who was showing no signs of improvement under treatment) was incurable.

Ramakant Kulkarni ends this interesting 14 page chapter with a news item that he came across a few years after this judgement: Raman Raghav, the dreaded maniac who had terrorised Bombay by his cold blooded nocturnal killings of hutment dwellers twenty years ago, died at Sassoon hospital. He had been suffering from kidney trouble.’
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