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Span of crimes
The Stoneman is a name given by the popular English-language print media of Calcutta, India to an unidentified serial killer who murdered at least 13 homeless people of that city during their sleep in 1989. The name is also given to the perpetrator of a similar series of murders in Bombay from 1985 to 1988. It has been speculated that these were the work of the same person, who could have been responsible for as many as 26 murders.
The Stoneman was blamed for thirteen murders over six months (the first in June 1989), but it was never established whether the crimes were committed by one person or a group of individuals. The Calcutta Police also failed to resolve whether any of the crimes were committed as a copycat murder. To date, no one has been charged with any of the crimes; all thirteen cases remain unsolved.
The first hint of a serial-killer who was targeting homeless ragpickers and beggars in India came from Bombay. Starting in 1985, and lasting well over two years, a series of twelve murders were committed in the Sion and King's Circle locality of the city. The criminal or criminals' modus operandi was simple: first they would find an unsuspecting victim sleeping alone in a desolate area. The victim's head was crushed with a single stone weighing as much as 30 kg. In most cases, the victims' identities could not be ascertained since they slept alone and did not have relatives or associates who could identify them. Compounded to this was the fact that the victims were people of very simple means and the individual crimes were not high-profile. It was after the sixth murder that the Bombay Police began to see a pattern in the crimes.
A stroke of luck seemed to come the police's way when a homeless waiter survived a brutal attack and managed to escape being bludgeoned to death. However, in the dimly lit area of Sion where he was sleeping, he had not been able to get a good look at his assailant, and what seemed like a big break came to naught.
Shortly afterwards, in 1987, a ragpicker was hacked to death in the adjoining suburb of Matunga. Even though the police and the media were quick to label this the handiwork of the same person, no evidence to link this crime with the others was ever found.
As mysteriously as the killings had started, by the middle of 1988, they stopped. To this date the case is unsolved.
Summer of 1989 in Calcutta
Whether or not the Bombay killings were linked to the Calcutta "Stoneman" killings has never been confirmed. However, the uncanny similarity in the instrument, choice of victims, execution, and the time of the attacks suggests the assailant(s) was familiar with the Bombay episodes, if not the same killer himself.
The first victim in Calcutta died from injuries to the head in June 1989. Twelve more would die in the next six months as panic gripped the city. All of the murdered were homeless pavement-dwellers who slept alone in dimly lit areas of the city. Most of the murders took place in central Calcutta, adjoining the Howrah Bridge.
Because the murderer killed victims by dropping a heavy stone or concrete slab, the police assumed that the assailant was probably a tall, well-built male. However, in the complete absence of any eyewitnesses or survivors, no clear-cut leads were available.
Massive deployments of police in various parts of the city at night were resorted to, and numerous arrests were made. After a spell of arrests in which a handful of "suspicious persons" were rounded up for questioning, the killings stopped. However, since there was no incriminating evidence, all those summarily arrested had to be released. To date, the crimes remain unsolved.
Stoneman in Guwahati
Film adaptations based upon the events
Producer Bobby Bedi produced a film titled The Stoneman Murders based on these incidents. The film released on 13 February 2009, starring Kay Kay Menon and Arbaaz Khan, and written and directed by Manish Gupta. Gupta said that his story for the movie is 40% fact and 60% fiction. The movie depicts the killings to be a part of a religious ritual being conducted by a policeman, with the actual perpetrator left open to interpretation at the end.
In 2011, a Bengali film named Baishe Srabon released which was directed by Srijit Mukherjee. The plot of the movie revolved around the same mysterious serial killings in Kolkata, which took place during the period of 1989. In the movie, the assassin is shown to brutally murder and the victims mostly belonged to the ignoble and the plebeian league of the society; either prostitutes, anti-socials or street dwellers. However, the climax of the movie saw the serial killer shooting himself after confessing all his crudities, which, in fact, is a clear deviation from the actual incident.
- Ghosh, Ritujay. "The elusive stoneman of Kolkata". HinduSan Stimes.com. Ritujay Ghosh. Retrieved 11 October 2018.