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STONEMAN, Urban Legend of Calcutta! Revisiting the city’s sensational Crime Stories!

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I Know What You Did Last Summer! But none of the Calcuttans knew who the serial killer of 1989’s Calcutta street murders was and what he was doing that summer! We were then school children, quite young, and the palpable terror of a killer lurking on the streets of the city regularly, gave us goosebumps for sure. So much so, that on most evenings when power cuts were a regular happening in Kolkata, we even locked our gates early evenings in fear of the Stoneman entering our homes.

After all, Byomkesh Bakshi wasn’t there then and everyone related the serial murders with that of his famous story Shojarur Kanta. The modus operandi of the killer was easy. Every victim was killed with a big stone slab, hit on the head and primarily those who slept on footpaths. His presence haunted Kolkata in the summer of 1989, when 13 people were murdered over six months. The first murder took place in June 1989. The common thread in all these murders was that the victims were it on their heads with a heavy stone slab. Besides, all these 13 victims were homeless and pavement dwellers who slept in dimly lit areas. They were usually killed after midnight or in early morning hours. The investigation started and even the police had no clue. They said all victims were hit on the head with stones, at least 30 kg in weight, when the victims were asleep. Unfortunately, none of the victims could be identified as no one came forward to claim their bodies. Hence it turned even more difficult for the investigating officers to understand a motive other than concluding that the ‘Stoneman’ was a psychological maniac. Since the murderer killed victims by dropping a heavy stone or concrete slab on them, the police inferred he was probably a tall, well-built male. However, in the complete absence of any eyewitnesses or survivors, no clear-cut leads were available. 

Incidentally, most of the killings were in central Kolkata, adjoining the Howrah Bridge. Though the killings ended by 1989, a few murders bearing the stone man signature were being reported since then. The last such murder was in 2003. Similar series of murders occurred in Mumbai between 1985-1988. Some even speculated these were the work of the same Stoneman, the one who haunted Calcutta later. The Mumbai murderer was responsible for as many as 26 murders! Whether or not these 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 was familiar with the Mumbai murders even if he was not the same criminal. Might be he was a copycat of the Mumbai serial killer. 

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. 

The Stoneman Crime was so sensational that even Bollywood came up with a movie named The Stoneman Murders in 2009, starring Kay Kay Menon and Arbaaz Khan. Even the 2011 Bengali film Baishe Srabon directed by Srijit Mukherjee has some similarity with the mysterious serial killings of Kolkata.