Indian man barely remembers murder he committed 50 years ago

PHOTO: An Indian man barely remembers committing murder 50 years ago. (via Asia One)

You’d think murdering someone is something you’d remember. But a man in India recently nabbed for an unsolved murder nearly 50 years ago appeared shocked when he was arrested. He said he only had a vague recollection of the incident.

A 70 year old woman was murdered in 1973 in the village of Saijpur in the Gujarat state of India. It was suspected that she fought with a robber and took a fall and died. She lay dead in her home for several days before her body was discovered after someone complained of a wretched smell.

Right away, a witness was named who was seen in her house the day of her killing. The brothers of 27 year old Sitaram Bhatane even said that they remembered him robbing people and that he was guilty of the murder. But then, the man vanished into thin air. Police were never able to track him down.

Long after the case went cold, police would arrange visits to the suspect’s hometown of Rajni about 600 kilometres away. They would make these trips twice a year at random times, and ask around his original neighbourhood to see if anyone had any information on a long-time fugitive. Even his brothers and other family members said they hadn’t seen him since the murder.

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In the present day, Gujarat police spent the last several months preparing for the safety and security of upcoming elections for the state assembly. One of their pre-emptive measures was to share a list of local known criminals and troublemakers to round up for fear that they would interfere in the election.

Bhatane has been left on the list of known troublemakers for decades and was including this year’s list. Officers doing routine checks on all criminals in his hometown were shocked to discover he had come back to town. Authorities believe it’s the first time anyone remembered him returning home since the murder.

Asia One reported that he spent a few years in Mumbai but mostly drifted around the north of India surviving on small crimes and begging for money by singing devotional songs. He now has a bad hip, walks with a limp, and is going deaf.

When police paid him a visit, confirming his identity by voting card and being identified by his brother and nephew, he was stunned to be arrested for the murder. He said that he remembered the location and the house and that he was trying to rob it but the victim resisted and there was a struggle. He didn’t remember her murder and seem to show no remorse. He appeared genuinely perplexed by the police arresting him after so much time has gone by.

“Even I can barely remember it, how on earth are you pursuing it 50 years later? I don’t remember, how can I possibly remember? It was so long ago.”

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.