Indian artist's murder: 3 more held

MUMBAI • Indian police have arrested three more people in connection with the murder of renowned artist Hema Upadhyay and her lawyer.

They were arrested hours after one of the main suspects, Mr Shivkumar Rajbhar, was nabbed by the Mumbai police in a joint operation with an Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force team in Varanasi.

Hours after he was arrested on Monday, Mr Shivkumar told the police that he and four others killed Ms Upadhyay and her lawyer, Mr Harish Bhambhani, after she defaulted on payment for an idol made by his employer, Mr Vidyadhar Rajbhar, a metal fabrication artist who is missing and the prime suspect in the double murder, reported The Indian Express.

The three arrested on Tuesday were identified as Mr Vijay Rajbhar, Mr Azaad Rajbhar and Mr Pradeep Rajbhar. Police said all three were allegedly present at the workshop along with Mr Shivkumar and Mr Vidyadhar when the murder took place, reported Daily News and Analysis newspaper. Despite Mr Shivkumar's assertion that the killing was over money, sources in the Mumbai Police said they are probing whether Ms Upadhyay's murder was a contract killing.

Ms Upadhyay was challenging a divorce decree by her estranged artist husband, Mr Chintan Upadhyay, and was also seeking alimony. Mr Bhambhani was her lawyer in the case. Police are questioning Mr Upadhyay over phone calls he made to Mr Vidyadhar recently, The Indian Express said.

Forensic tests indicate Ms Upadhyay and Mr Bhambhani had severe contusions that possibly led to their death, contrary to the earlier assumption that strangulation was the main cause of death. The police are waiting for the final results of chemical analysis.

A well-known artist, Ms Upadhyay had exhibited her works at shows in China, Australia, France, Israel and Japan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2015, with the headline 'Indian artist's murder: 3 more held'. Print Edition | Subscribe