The painstaking reconstruction of an eventful night in May 1998 helped the Crime Branch solve a 14-year-old murder case which had grown ‘cold’ over the years.

The victim, S. Suresh Kumar, a 28-year-old Indian Air Force (IAF) non-commissioned officer, was found dead in a temple pond at Nemom on May 17, 1998.

Additional Director-General of Police, Crimes, Vinson. M. Paul’s team, which revisited the case again in April this year, perused sheaves and sheaves of police station records to find that at least five persons had seen Suresh Kumar with his neighbour Sarath and four others at the Kallumoodu junction at 10.30 p.m. on October 16 night.

Investigators led by Deputy Superintendent of Police P. Regu found that at least four persons had told the police then that they had witnessed Suresh arrive there in an autorickshaw with Sarath and three others.

According to them, the youth were drunk and a scuffle ensued. The last they saw of Suresh was the rest of the gang hustling him towards the pond.

Forensic doctors, who autopsied Suresh’s body, gave the cause of his death as ‘smothering followed by homicidal drowning.’

They counted nine injuries on his face and several contusions and beat marks on his body.

Another witness, a neighbour of Sarath, had told the police earlier that she had seen Sarath come drunk to his house on the night of October 16 and hear his mother wail out loudly in angst. She said she had heard Sarath’s mother repeatedly asking her son, ‘why he had done it.’

The Crime Branch found that the local police, curiously, had failed to pursue any of the leads.

Moreover, the material objects relating to the murder case, chiefly Sarath’s blood-stained dress and personal belongings, were seen missing from the station.

The court had asked the local police to keep the objects in safe custody till the case was disposed. The Crime Branch interviewed all the witnesses who had spoken to the police after the murder was reported in 1998.

Most of them reiterated their statements on their own to a Magistrate under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

The agency confronted the suspects with the evidence, including the statements of those who had served them liquor on the day. They also questioned Sarath’s mother.

The agency concluded that Sarath had killed Suresh on the basis of an unfounded suspicion that latter had an illicit relationship with a member of his family. Sarath was incensed that he was the butt of jokes spread by gossip mongers.

The prosecution case was that Sarath and the other accused, Asokan, Santosh, and Anil, had enticed Suresh to join them for a night of ribaldry and they had beat, smothered, and drowned him to death. “Tragically, it was an honour killing prompted by canards,” an official said.

Keywords: murder case