Saturday, November 10, 2012

Dadar police had past run-ins with chemical attacker

Jerrit John’s housing society, Shera Coop, in Sector 16, Vashi

Cops Rush To Mira Rd, Vashi After Absconding Filmmaker’s Phone Is Traced, But Don’t Find Him There

 

Mateen Hafeez, Bharati Dubey, Vijay Singh & Vijay V Singh TNN


Mumbai/Navi Mumbai:
The Dadar police said they contacted film professional Jerrit John, 46, over his cell soon after he threw a chemical at Aryanka Hozbetkar, 26, at her Worli home on Wednesday, but he only complained that he had seen her with another man and therefore perpetrated the attack. The police called Jerrit in to “verify” his role and give a statement, but he never showed up. “He then switched off his phone,” said an investigator.
   
 When TOI contacted Aryanka’s mother Arti, who works as a clerk in the City Civil and Sessions court, she said, “We don’t want to talk about this issue to the media.”
   
 The Dadar cops said Vashi resident Jerrit had been reprimanded by them at least half-adozen times in the past “for roaming in the Worli area late at night”. “Each time he was asked to go home, but he excused himself saying he had come to drop Aryanka home,” said a senior police officer.
   
 Celebrities and Aryanka’s friends continued to express shock at the chemical attack on Friday even as the police sent out three teams to trace Jerrit, who runs the Bandrabased No Nonsense production firm and has worked on documentary and feature films like Slumdog Millionaire and My Name Is Khan.
   
 Actor Dia Mirza, who worked with Jerrit on her first home production said, “I am appalled by this news. We thought he was a decent person and that perhaps due to unavoidable circumstances he was avoiding repaying us, but reading the papers has sickened me. It’s really scary to think you've worked so closely with an individual who has gone on to display such unacceptable behaviour.”
   
 On Friday afternoon, Jerrit’s younger brother Jerrish arrived at the police station with Jerrit’s pet dog in a car. Jerrish couldn’t say where his brother was hiding. Two policemen went with Jerrish to Mira Road, but Jerrit wasn’t there. On Friday morning, Jerrit’s cell was on for sometime in Mira Road, but it was later switched off. In the evening, the phone was switched on in Vashi, but police could not trace him there too.
   
 Jerrish, who works in the UAE, happens to be in Mumbai on a 15-day holiday. “We feel it will be easier to trace Jerrit through his brother,” said an officer. Cops are also tracking Jerrit’s email address. “If he has switched off his mobile and didn’t go home or to a relative’s place, he might access his email,” said the officer.
   
 Jerrit, who is married with a son, was having a relationship with Hozbetkar as well as a married woman. After the chemical attack, he began threatening the second woman too. The second woman, who lives in Borivli, managed to contact Hozbetkar, who revealed what had happened that night and said that Jerrit may be on his way to attack her. The woman, whose husband is usually away on work, locked her door and didn’t let in Jerrit, who arrived to threaten her and her fiveyear-old son.
   
 Jerrit’s Vashi neighbours in the upmarket Sector 16 said they hardly mingled with him or his family even though the Johns had been staying there for six years. Jerrit has a twobedroom flat on the second floor of the Shera Coop housing society. He lives there with his wife, son and pet dog.
   
 “Two days ago, the police came to the flat in the early hours to search for Jerrit,” said a resident. “They took his younger brother for questioning.” Another society member said, “Jerrit was in a love marriage. Nine days ago his wife left for her Nagpur home. We do not know if there was marital discord.” Jerrit reportedly had two vehicles , which were not parked there on Friday.
   
 Jerrit opened his office off Carter Road in Bandra about two years ago. Those in the neighbourhood initially knew him as a family man. His wife would come to the office, where he played with their child. “Suddenly a girl began coming on a scooter, after which the wife wasn’t seen,” said a long-time resident.
   
 After Wednesday’s attack, Jerrit has not been seen at the office. The staff, comprising a couple of men and a woman, attended till Thursday. A neighbour said, “People would come for meetings all the time. Two days back he was screaming at someone over the phone, after which I didn’t see him.”
   
 Near the office door was a fancy ‘Private Parking’ sign above a cutout of the film Dev D. A businessman in the area said, “Jerrit was very stylish. He always moved with his cycle tied to the back of his Scorpio.” Jerrit’s wife may have been a teacher in Chembur, he added.
   
 Jerrit is a known face in the film world and has worked with production houses like UTV, Dharma Productions and Excel Entertainment. A creative consultant said, “I just cannot believe that Jerrit did something like this. He is a good professional. But there were certain habits he indulged in which probably were responsible for this behaviour.” Producer Ritesh Sidhwani, with whom Jerrit worked with on Don and Luck By Chance, said, “He needs to turn himself in and face the consequences. I really don’t know in which frame of mind he did such a thing. I feel he needs help.” The head of a production house said, “This incident is shocking and I don’t think anyone would want to work with him again.”
   
 Actor-producer Shashi Ranjan, who also runs an NGO, said, “This is a most cowardly and deplorable act on the part of any man who claims to love or care for a woman. I have been helping acid attack victims and I know most of the time it is the jilted lover who disfigures the girl’s face.”
 
Netizens want ‘coward’ caught
 The online world has been abuzz with news of the chemical attack on Aryanka Hozbetkar, 26, with netizens asking for help in finding the suspect Jerrit John, 46.
 
    Director-actor Farhan Akhtar tweeted: “Shame on you Jerrit John. Now come out of hiding, you coward.” Akhtar posted a picture of John and wrote: “If you spot this man please dial 100 and refer case to Dadar police station.”
 
    Simran Channey, a marketing manager at a film firm, tweeted, “Man, you can never know when someone will lose it! Jerrit was someone I had worked with, was a loser, but never thought he’d be a woman beater and would throw (a chemical) on a woman. It’s sickening me since morning.”
 
    Human Rights activist Kamayani Bali Mahabal blogged: “Jerrit has been asking friends to say that they did not hear anything or see anything. Jerrit, seriously, you think we will be quiet? You may have deleted your Facebook profile, but you can’t be on the run for long.”
 
    Dipti Shah wrote on the networking page of Mumbai Cycling Enthusiasts: “So, so angry. Cycling is all about fun and not anger nor frustration nor revenge. So all you jerks and frustrated leeks, be it lust, be it power, be it personal vendetta – stay away. There’s no room here for you cowards.” TNN


The Times of India, November 10, 2012

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