Forensic tests on the bullets used to kill writers and rationalists MM Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar suggest that a common group of assailants was involved, the Indian Express reported on Friday. According to the report, the bullet cartridges in all three murders came from 7.65mm country-made pistols and threw up forensic similarities. This is the first piece of physical evidence that confirms investigators' suspicions that the three murders were linked. The police had earlier connected the killings through the common motives, murder weapons and modus operandi – they were all shot by bikers early in the morning.

The cartridges in the Kalburgi and Pansare cases were found to be similar, while a second set of cartridges found at the scene of Pansare’s murder matched those used on Dabholkar. This has led the police to believe that a common set of operatives might have used two weapons to carry out the attacks.

“The cartridges recovered in the Kalburgi case and the Pansare case are very similar according to forensic analysis. There is similarity in the three cases through the cartridges apart from the modus operandi, but this is not sufficient to identify the perpetrators as yet,’’ a senior Karnataka police officer said.

Dabholkar was shot dead in Pune with four bullets in August 2013. Pansare and his wife were shot at five times by unidentified men on motorcycles in February this year. While his wife survived, Pansare succumbed. Kalburgi was murdered in August by motorcycle-borne assailants, who shot him in his home in Dharwad, Karnataka.