Inside Story

MUMBAI: It is a crime that defies belief. A 61-year-old woman killed her friend and neighbour of 13 years because she needed money and because she felt slighted over the latter's refusal to lend her Rs 50.

Latika Kamble, 55, was found murdered at her home in Kannamwar Nagar, Vikhroli (East), on September 14, her head bludgeoned in two places with a dull object and some valuables robbed. The crime, the Mumbai crime branch said on Wednesday, was committed by Laxmibai Dangle, a 60-year-old who lives three doors down from Kamble's house.

"We initially thought it was the handiwork of some outsider, but, as the investigation progressed, we realized that an insider was involved. It later turned out to be Dangle. She tried to mislead us at first but broke down and confessed on Tuesday," said Himanshu Roy, joint commissioner of police (crime). "It is shocking to see how someone could kill her friend for money."

Dangle was arrested on Wednesday. Officers said she is a widow, as was Kamble. She lived at her Vikhroli residence with a nephew and his wife. And, for a while, she was in debt.

The sordid saga began on the afternoon of September 11, when Dangle went to Kamble's home to borrow Rs 50. Neighbours for about 13 years, the two were really close, so much so that they often exchanged food and stories. Kamble had even shown Dangle in the past the gold ornaments meant for the weddings of her son and daughter.

On that afternoon however, Kamble, in the presence of her youngest daughter Manisha, declined to loan money. She told Dangle that she had exhausted all her cash on buying provisions.

"This infuriated Dangle. She argued with my mother. She shouted that my mother had my late father's pension and that me and my siblings earned adequately," Manisha said on Wednesday. "On that point, she left our house. I immediately sent my mother with Rs 50 to Dangle's home but, this time, Dangle turned it down."

Three days passed by without the neighbours sharing a word. Around 1.30pm on September 14, Kamble bumped into Dangle as she was purchasing fish from a roving fishmonger outside her flat. She offered to buy Dangle fish but the latter declined. A while later, Dangle visited Kamble's home. Burying the hatchet, the two talked casually until 2.30pm, when Kamble asked Dangle to leave because she had to take an afternoon nap. On her way out, Dangle left the door ajar.

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