The 50-year-old detective, who would appear almost boyish if it were not for the heavy bags under his eyes, is famous for wheedling confessions out of murder suspects by making audacious bluffs. He made his name during the investigation into the terrorist blasts that claimed 257 lives in Mumbai in 1993 – a case he cracked with the help of a scooter key that linked the veteran smuggler Tiger Memon to the atrocity.
That single clue laid bare a nexus of underworld involvement and led to more than 100 convictions.
According to Mr Maria, on the first night of the November attack, Mr Kasab showed signs of having been trained to withstand interrogation, but soon broke down.
The police chief quickly got his answers: 10 terrorists armed with AK56 automatic rifles (the Chinese version of the AK47), pistols, grenades and other explosives had arrived by sea from Pakistan, Mr Kasab told Mr Maria.
The militants had broken up into smaller units and fanned out across Mumbai to kill as many people as possible.
“Kasab was relatively forthcoming,” Mr Maria said, dismissing suggestions that his men resorted to torture – something the Mumbai force has been accused of in the past. “Real interrogation never works like that. It’s not as you see it in the films,” he said.
The nuggets of information were the first to be unearthed in an investigation that will be the focus of global attention as Mr Kasab’s trial proceeds. Charged with murder and waging war on India, the Pakistani national faces death by hanging if convicted.
Mr Maria, who has worked 15-hour days on the Kasab case for the past four months, knows the limits of what the gunman can reveal directly. “We have here a limb, not the brain, of this terrorist organisation,” he said.