Dr Sabira's murder remains an unsolved enigma as investigation hits roadblock

After quizzing 50 people over two and a half years, PBI hasn't reached a conclusion, and there's no evidence supporting suspicions against her husband

Kamal Hossain Talukdarbdnews24.com
Published : 16 Feb 2024, 09:37 PM
Updated : 16 Feb 2024, 09:37 PM

Two and a half years after Dr Kazi Sabira Rahman Lipi was found murdered at her residence in Dhaka's Kalabagan, the investigators are struggling with a maze of clues as conclusive evidence remains out of reach.

The Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI) took over from local police and interrogated over 50 individuals, including Dr Sabira's husband AK Shamsuddin Azad, but it remains unclear who and why would kill Sabira.

His arrest and subsequent questioning in custody has revealed no significant evidence.

Azad also declined to provide a confessional statement in court.

After spending some time in jail, he has been released on bail, but investigators continue to harbour suspicions towards him and his driver.

In the course of the investigation, the PBI has talked to over 50 people, including the house caretaker, domestic help, other tenants, flatmates, colleagues, and relatives of Sabira. However, they have yet to reach a conclusion.

The PBI chief says they are making progress and getting close to solving the mystery.

MYSTERY SURROUNDING SABIRA'S MURDER

Police recovered Sabira's body on May 30, 2021, from her flat in the city's Kalabagan First Lane. The 47-year-old radiologist was employed at Green Life Hospital.

Her cousin Rezaul Hasan Jewel started a murder case at Kalabagan Police Station against unidentified people the following day.

Sabira had wounds from sharp weapons and burns on her body. The bedding was also partially burnt.

She stayed in the room of the rented flat alone after separation from her second husband Azad, a banker. Her first husband, who was also a doctor, died after an accident nearly two decades ago.

She has two children and both of them live with her mother at another house in the same neighbourhood.

Sabira rented two rooms of the flat out to two other women.

One of them was the first to discover Sabira's body, while the other was not at home at the time.

Police detained the other flatmate, Kaniz Suborna, Suborna’s friend Mahathir Mohammad Spandan, and the building’s guard Ramzan, who was identified with a single name, but found no useful information.

Police said Suborna, Ramzan and some other neighbours broke the lock after seeing smoke coming out from Sabira’s room, which was “locked from inside”.

Later they called the law enforcers and the Fire Service and Civil Defence for help.

Sharif Mohammad Faruquzzaman, an assistant commissioner at DMP, said they were speaking to neighbours and relatives of Sabira.

However, police found no weapon or fingerprints from the killer.

Moreover, no witnesses reported seeing any suspicious individuals entering or leaving the building, and there were no CCTV cameras installed in the vicinity.

Neither has anyone been charged in the case filed by Sabira’s cousin, nor has any evidence been found to support suspicions against her husband.

PBI Inspector Jewel Mia, who is leading the investigation now, said Sabira was first hacked to death, and then her body was set on fire, resulting in 70 percent burns.

There were nine wounds on different parts of her body.

When asked about the investigation's progress, Jewel informed bdnews24.com on Wednesday that the body exhibited a throat cut, along with multiple other injuries and burns, confirming it as a murder.

INQUIRY HINGES ON DIARY ENTRY

Jewel stated that the focus of the investigation, which began on Aug 22, 2021, has primarily centred around Sabira's husband and his driver.

Additional background information is required for a thorough inquiry, necessitating more time for the PBI, he said.

Sabira was previously married to another doctor who died in 2003. She married Azad two years after her first husband's demise in an accident.

Sabira had two children from two separate marriages. However, she lived separately from her husband because they experienced marital discord.

The investigating officer revealed suspicions against Azad, citing a diary recovered from him post-murder containing disparaging remarks directed at his wife.

Azad was arrested on Apr 19, 2022, from his Shantinagar residence and subjected to three days of police custody and interrogation.

The investigating officer said Azad avoided answering many questions.

He was subsequently granted bail by the High Court on Sept 22 of the same year.

Hasan, the plaintiff in the case, initially did not suspect Azad. However, after discovering the diary entry, doubts arose.

Hasan expressed frustration over the police's inability to complete the investigation.

According to the investigating officer, Sabira resided in Kalabagan but occasionally stayed at her mother's residence on Green Road.

Azad lived in Shantinagar, while his chauffeur Saiful, identified with a single name, usually returned to his residence every night from Shantinagar.

However, on the night of the incident, Saiful was found at Azad's house.

"Saiful's location on the night of the murder has brought him to the forefront of our list of suspects," said the investigating officer.

SABIRA-AZAD RELATIONSHIP

Sabira tied the knot with Azad in 2006, and they have a daughter.

Her cousin Hasan revealed that Azad had been married twice before marrying Sabira, but he kept one marriage hidden from her.

"The dispute started when Sabira discovered Azad's undisclosed marriage," said Hasan.

"Since then, she has never permanently resided at Azad's Shantinagar residence. She would alternate between staying in Shantinagar and at her mother's Green Road residence.”

Two months before the tragic incident, she had shifted to the Kalabagan house, Hasan added.

EVIDENCE DESTROYED, INVESTIGATION FLAWED

PBI’s Jewel pointed out negligence in the primary investigation. "Several key pieces of evidence have been compromised, causing delays in wrapping up the murder investigation."

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a PBI official told bdnews24.com that they had to start the investigation afresh because a witness’ statement was not obtained, leading to a prolonged process.

“However, we remain hopeful about uncovering the truth behind this murder."

Explaining the oversight in obtaining the statement, the official remarked, "It was an error on our part. Perhaps it was a lapse in compassion or the investigating officer at the time failed to consider the significance."

Contrary to the challenges faced, Jewel is confident about cracking the Dr Sabira murder mystery.

"Our team is dedicating extensive efforts to this investigation, surpassing many high-profile cases.

“We remain hopeful for a swift end to this murder mystery."

DISAPPOINTED PLAINTIFF

Sabira’s cousin Hasan said he believed the PBI could solve the murder case like they have in other cases. “But now I'm disappointed with the lack of progress.

“We still don't know who's responsible or why this happened, and we're unsure when we'll get answers."

PBI chief Banaj Kumar Majumder informed bdnews24.com that they are nearing a breakthrough in uncovering the mystery. Sabira's husband remains a suspect, although he is currently out on bail. “We are now awaiting the supporting evidence."

Addressing the plaintiff's frustration, he added, "Progress will be made. We are slightly delayed, but we are ramping up the investigation. I am hopeful that the mystery will be solved soon."

TRACKING DOWN AZAD

A woman received a call on one of Azad's two mobile phone numbers. She said she was from Narayanganj and explained that her son bought the SIM card six months ago.

She mentioned that many people call this number asking for someone named Azad.

When bdnews24.com tried to talk to Azad, another woman answered on a different WhatsApp number. She said, "Azad is not here now. I'll tell him know about you when he returns."

When asked if "outside" referred to being abroad, she said Azad is currently in the country.

"I don't know you, so I won't provide any further details." the woman added and hung up.

[Writing in English by Arshi Fatiha Quazi; editing by Osham-ul-Sufian Talukder]