Insiders said the investigations suggested that the killers took Hiran’s mobile phone to Vasai — where the police found his last mobile location — and kept it on till 11.30pm to throw investigators off track. They also said Hiran was probably killed before he was thrown into the creek.
In the morning, a team of ATS officers visited the spot where Hiran’s body was found. The team is learnt to have surveyed the stretch for evidence. Later in the day, a police team visited the residence of the Hirans and questioned Hiran’s wife, Vimala, and the couple’s son.
The murder case was registered on a complaint from Vimala. The accidental death case initially registered by the Mumbra police station was taken over by the ATS and converted into a murder case, said a police source. Hiran’s brother Vinod said the family suspected murder. Hiran had written a letter to the state home minister and commissioners of police in Thane and Mumbai complaining about harassment at the hands of various investigating agencies.
Hiran resided in Thane and left his flat around 8pm on Thursday, saying he was stepping out to meet a person called Tawde on Ghodbunder Road.
Investigators were unable to find his mobile phone. The postmortem report was inconclusive and the viscera samples were sent to the state forensic lab for further tests. Sources said there were some observations in the report, including the nature of some injuries, that gave rise to suspicion of foul play. Questions were also raised after handkerchiefs were found stuffed inside his mouth, said an officer.
The ATS registered a case of murder, causing disappearance of evidence of offence or giving false information to screen offender, acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention and criminal conspiracy.
The investigation is being headed and monitored by ATS chief Jai Jeet Singh and DIG Shivdeep Lande. The ATS team will also look at the line of investigation initially pursued by the crime branch team. This is also relevant considering that Hiran had hired an Ola cab on February 17, the day the SUV went missing from his possession, to the police headquarters in Crawford Market but ended up taking the cab to another location at CST.
The cab driver, whose statement has been recorded, said that Hiran kept often referring to a certain “Sir” on the cellphone all through the trip. Officials will also ascertain if Hiran had any inkling about the identity of the person who parked the SUV near Ambani’s residence.
The explosive-laden SUV was found on Carmichael Road on February 25. The SUV was stolen on February 17, after Hiran left it on the Mulund-Airoli road because it had developed a snag. A neighbour said last he saw “Bhaije” (elder brother), as Hiran was fondly called, a few hours before he left home last and said he seemed stressed about the continuous grilling and visits to police stations in the SUV explosives case.
A family associate from Ameth village in Rajasthan, from where the family hails, said Hiran was socially active and was known to many people.