The Crime Branch on Wednesday arrested Santhosh Kumar, the first accused in the murder of liquor contractor V.A. Mohanan alias Mithila Mohan, seven years after the sensational murder rocked the city. Mohanan was shot to death at his house on April 5, 2006.

Santhosh Kumar(47) alias Kannan of Pottekadu House Pattupurackal, Thrissur, was arrested by the Crime Branch team led by K.G. Simon, Superintendent of Police.

Santhosh was one of the suspects and had been interrogated by the investigation team 16 times after it took over the probe from local police on June 19, 2006. He always denied his involvement till the Crime Branch decided to do a polygraph test and brain-mapping on him. “That made him confess to the crime”, said Mr. Simon.

Stories of rivalry

It was a complicated case as the deceased had too many enemies. Mohanan used to leak information about the movement of illicit spirit and Santhosh Kumar was one of the affected parties. He told the investigators that Mohanan stole his truck and demanded a payment of Rs. Three lakh and then leaked information about his attempt to smuggle spirit in Palakkad. Pattambi police seized his tanker truck and registered a case in 2005.

Santhosh told the police that the decision to eliminate Mohanan was taken then as these incidents “devastated” him. He got in touch with Pandiyan, a notorious criminal from Dindigul, in Tamil Nadu to hire two professional shooters.

The shooters did a reconnaissance a month before committing the crime. Santhosh had given them a photograph of Mohanan, which was taken while he went for a morning walk. The team returned a day before the crime. The contract was fixed for Rs. 10 lakh and Rs. 20,000 was paid in advance.

The murder was committed on the eve of the One-Day International cricket match between India and England here. But that was just coincidental, said Mr. Simon. The assailants rang the calling bell at Mohanan’s house and his daughter-in-law responded to the call. They asked for Mohanan and when he came to the door, five shots were fired at him. The incident did not attract the attention of the neighbours as fire-crackers were being burst to mark Vishu festival.

The next day, the assailants left for Coimbatore where Santhosh met them and made a payment of Rs. 10 lakh. Santhosh told the police that the assailants came back in 2009 and volunteered to surrender if he paid them Rs. 2.5 lakh each. However, he suspected they were attempting to cheat him and hence did not pay.

The Crime Branch team is yet to track down the contract killers and recover the weapons used. The accused will be produced before the Ernakulam Judicial First Class Magistrate Court on Thursday.

Long list of suspects, rumours

The hard part of the investigation was eliminating the long list of suspects and narrow down on the accused, said K.G. Simon, Superintendent of Police.

The list of suspects included Thampi, who was a stranger to Mohanan and was spotted attending the marriage function of latter’s son.

Another suspect was Martin, whose slip of tongue did him in. During a drinking session in the Middle East where he worked, he claimed he was the killer. The police brought him to Kerala and questioned him. However, his involvement was ruled out.

Sadanandan, Mohanan’s assistant and Anwar, driver of one of his trucks, were also suspected and interrogated in detail during the probe. The Crime Branch team also checked the possibility of Rafi, another spirit smuggler from Thiruvananthapuram, getting involved as Mohanan had given him much trouble.

There were news reports that Satish Kalia, one of the sharp-shooters of in the Chotta Rajan gang, was hired for the crime. However, police ruled out the possibility after finding out that he was in prison.

When Manoj, the eldest son of Mohanan was summoned,0he moved an anticipatory bail petition, triggering another set of media reports. Maneesh, younger son of Mohanan, demanded a CBI probe into the case.

The police had interrogated nearly 110 witnesses in the case.

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