‘Diamonds’ brought Hari Hara Varma his death. On December 24, 2012, five men strangulated the 60-year-old self-styled royal and gemstone dealer for his precious stones at a house in the city.

The accused would soon learn that the stones they murdered Varma for were anything but the precious diamonds they deemed the royal hoard to be.

Out of the 3,647 stones the police retrieved from the accused, as many as 341 were manmade and the rest of doubtful value.

The plunder also included three figurines of Lord Ganesha and a piece of stone, all of negligible worth.

The accused, all youth with no previous police record, seemed dismayed when they heard the guilty verdict. Their parents, who were in the court room, were in tears. The police had ensured that their case withstood legal scrutiny by piecing together an assemblage of dialled numbers (after painstakingly analysing the mobile phone usage pattern of the accused and the victim) to establish a forensic “link chart” connecting the accused to the crime.

Varma’s wife was present at the sentencing. A matrimonial advertisement had brought the couple together in 2010.

A police investigator said Varma’s past seemed as dubious as the value of the gem stones he hoarded. The “royal family” he claimed to belong to declared him a pretender after his death.

His wife had been unable to shed any meaningful light on Varma’s past and had little knowledge of his relatives or sources of income, the police said. Investigators said a school-leaving certificate found among Varma’s possessions showed that he had passed out of Sri Gujarati Vidyalaya at Mattanchery in 1968.

The late T.P. Mathew, father of former Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac, was the school principal at the time and his signature did not match the one on Varma’s SSLC certificate. For the police, the true identity of Varma and his past are likely to remain unsolved mysteries for a long time.