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Sushil Kumar case: Police theories on murder motive include wrestler poaching and a mysterious Ukrainian woman

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India’s greatest solo Olympian Sushil Kumar is accused of beating a fellow wrestler to death.

Sushil Kumar, India - Olympics Day 16 - Wrestling
Sushil Kumar receiving his Olympic silver medal at the London 2012 Games.
Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

On May 4 Sagar Dhankad (sometimes reported as Sagar Dhankhar or Sagar Rana), along with a few friends, were beaten with sticks at the Chhatrasal Stadium complex in New Delhi. Dhankad was killed and his friends were left with serious injuries. Dhankad, a former junior national wrestling champion, was 23-years-old.

Two time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar, 38, has been arrested on suspicion of leading the gang of men who abducted and killed Dhankad. Kumar, one of India’s most accomplished athletes and a widely recognized celebrity, lead police on a 20-day manhunt before he was captured.

Since his arrest various reports in India have tied Kumar to organized crime around Delhi. It has been alleged that Kumar utilized contacts in the criminal underworld back when he operated a toll booth business and that some of these characters were also involved in this latest incident.

Kumar’s arrest has also brought into focus the uncomfortable, yet widely present, connections between wrestling and crime in northern India, particularly Haryana state.

With Kumar in custody and awaiting trial, police are trying to focus in on a motive for why he might have wanted to attack Dhankad.

Initially it was reported that Dhankad was a former tenant of Kumar. And that, after Kumar evicted Dhankad for not paying rent, Dhankad supposedly badmouthed the champion wrestler around town. It was thought that Dhankad’s ‘disrespect’ was enough to allegedly motivate Kumar in wanting to physically confront and beat Dhankad.

However, according to The Times of India and their sources within Delhi’s police, the reason for the attack was far more complex than that and involved a feud that simmered until eventually boiling over.

The Times of India reports that the feud may have started out over a possible love-triangle involving a mysterious Ukrainian woman.

That outlet states that police are trying to track down this woman believing she may ‘hold the key’ to what happened to turn Kumar and Dhankad’s feud deadly.

The woman is reportedly an acquaintance of Dhankad’s friends, some of whom were beaten during the deadly attack. One of those friends, Sonu Mahaal, is the nephew of wanted gangster Kala Jathedi. Mahaal had both hands broken in the attack.

It is believed that friends of Kumar and friends of Dhankad had ‘developed a liking’ for the woman. This rivalry for her attention lead to arguments and, eventually, Kumar wanting to evict Dhankad from an apartment he owned (an apartment that woman had been known to frequent).

That outlet further reports that Kumar enlisted the help of known gangster Neeraj Bawana to help with the eviction. The eviction is said to have angered Jathedi, who is alleged to have helped Kumar secure the flat in the first place.

The feud that was kicked off by the eviction was reportedly intensified by allegations that Dhankad was also trying to poach wrestlers.

The Times of India states that Dhankad was trying to poach 50-60 wrestlers from the Chhatrasal Stadium, where Kumar trained. That outlet reports that Dhankad and a coach had been kicked out of the Chhatrasal Stadium team because they were not showing enough deference to Kumar.

After this Dhankad and the coach set up their own akhara (training facility) in Nangloi and were hoping to attract other wrestlers from Chhatrasal.

Kumar is currently in custody at Mandoli Jail. Nine other men have been arrested in connection with the May 4 incident.