February 12, 2012

Journalist couple brutally killed

Two well-known TV journalists have apparently been murdered in yet unexplained circumstances at their Dhaka home where they lived with their only child, the police and family said.

The bodies of ATN Bangla senior reporter Meherun Runi, in her mid-30s, and husband Maasranga Television news editor Golam Mustofa Sarowar, known as Sagar Sarowar, 37, were discovered on Saturday morning at their rented flat at west Rajabazar in the capital.

The police found the bodies of the couple lying in a pool of blood. Sarowar’s hands and legs were tied, and marks of wounds inflicted by sharp weapons were on their bodies.

The police official said the couple’s room was visibly ransacked and drawers were open. Surprisingly, valuables like laptop and camera were there in the room and nothing was apparently missing.

They were killed in the early Saturday, Sher-e-Bangla Nagar police station officer-in-charge Zakir Hossain Mollah said. The police have detained a security guard for questioning.

‘We have detained the building’s security guard Polash Rudro Paul for questioning,’ he said. ‘The matter is still unclear. We are investigating,’ Zakir said.

The OC said after waking up around 7:00am on Saturday, the couple’s 5-year-old son ‘Megh’ found the bodies lying on the floor of their bedroom. He then called his grandmother (Runi’s mother) and informed her of the incident. The grill of a kitchen window was found cut with an opening of 1.8 feet, OC Mollah added.

The detective wing head of the Rapid Action Battalion, Ziaul Ahsan, said, ‘In the primary investigation, it appears to be a pre-planned act. It also occurred to us that the killers did know them previously.’

The couple used to live on a fourth-floor flat of a multi-storied apartment complex on 58/A/2 holding of the area. The Tejgaon police deputy commissioner, Imam Hossain, told journalists that the detained security guard of the building, Palash Rudra Paul, said Sagor had come home around 2:00am. He saw no strangers getting in the apartment complex later on.

The police deputy commissioner said, ‘A grill at the kitchen was cut with an opening. The opening was such that only a child could enter. This fact is also being taken into consideration.’

Hamida Sultana, who lives in the flat next to the journalist couple’s, said she overheard conversations in their flat on Friday evening and thought there were guests in their home. But there was no record of guests on the security guard’s logbook.

‘Palash said sometime before the Fajr prayers, apartment owners’ association president of the building Mohammad Nurunnabi rang him up and said he (Nurunnabi) had heard someone crying on the floor right above his. Nurunnabi lives in the flat right under Sagor’s,’ Hossain said.

According to one of Sagor’s co-workers, Zobair Ahmed, a reporter at Maasranga TV, Sagor was at the television office until 1:30am. He said he also was on duty on Friday night and talked with Sagor. ‘I was stunned to learn about this incident in the morning,’ he said.

Criminal Investigation Department members of police reached the scene of the murder around 11:00am.

Sarowar returned to Bangladesh in 2011 after a few years in Bonn, working for Germany’s Duetsche Welle as a broadcaster and a reporter. He had previously been with Ittefaq, Jugantor, Sangbad among other news outlets.

According to relatives, Sagor’s ancestral home is on Nawabpur Road in old Dhaka, where one of his four sisters currently lives. Runi, whose parents live at a house nearby, had worked with Sangbad, Jugantor and Channel I.

Forensic experts suspect ‘non-professionals’ killed Runi and Sarowar. ‘Both bodies have marks of random slashing with knives and sharp weapons,’ forensic expert Sohel Mahmud, who conducted the autopsy, said. ‘The wounds have led us to suspect that the murderers are not professionals.

‘There were 29 large wounds on Sagor’s body along with 20-25 small cuts. A knife was found inserted 80 per cent into the left side of his chest. We removed it here (during post-mortem examination). The butt of the knife was missing.’

Mahmud said there were two deep wounds in Runi’s stomach. ‘Her death was hastened, as a blood vessel was severed,’ he added. As the news of their death spread, mass media workers and people living nearby thronged there.

On behalf of the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, her press secretary Abul Kalam Azad and special assistant (media) Mahbubul Alam Shakil, home minister Shahara Khatun, BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, Dhaka University vice-chancellor AAMS Arefin Siddique, inspector general of police Hassan Mahmood Khandker, Dhaka Metropolitan Police commissioner Benazir Ahmed and many others went to the spot. They offered their condolences to the grief-stricken family members.

Journalists from different media organisations staged a token strike in front of the National Press Club on Saturday afternoon, demanding arrest and trial of those behind the murder of Sarowar and Runi.

More than 50 journalists from various organisations took part in the strike. Among them were Sharfi Ahmed of Baishakhi TV, Shah Sikander Rehman of Banglavision TV, Zilhas Uddin Nipun of ABC Radio and Javed Akter of ATN News.

Later, the journalist couple was laid to rest at Azimpur Graveyard at 8:45pm Saturday. Family members, colleagues and well-wishers of the couple were present during the burial at Azimpur.

Before the burial, three separate namaz-e-janaza were held at different places including Dhaka Reporters’ Unity, Maasranga Television compound and on ATN Bangla channel premises.

Bangladesh Today