Following a spate of murders in the last fortnight, police are asking residents to be careful while employing anyone

The murder of four women in separate incidents in Chennai over the last two weeks has come as a wake-up call to residents living alone, especially on the issue of trusting people.

On the night of June 13, well-known psychologist Emma Gonsalvez (82) was found dead in her seventh-floor flat in Egmore. The police probe led to a man, who frequented the house to feed the doctor’s pet Persian cats. However, investigators haven’t been able to identify the killer who stole a laptop and other valuables from the house.

Mallika Ravi (63), also a medical practitioner, was recently killed by a call driver and two accomplices whom she had assigned the task of selling a property in Mint. On June 19, a 54-year-old woman was found strangled at her home in Srinivasa Nagar, Selaiyur by her daughter.

Jewellery owned by the victim, Gajalakshmi, was missing.

Before the shock of these murders could subside, another woman — 55-year-old Mehrunnisa was murdered on Tuesday afternoon in her house on Devarajan Street in Royapettah. Her husband discovered her gagged and tied-up body and gold jewellery and cash was missing.

Police have repeatedly issued advisories to women and elderly people residing alone about not entertaining strangers under any circumstances. With investigators claiming that in all four cases, the killers were known to the victims, citizens are being asked to exercise utmost caution when appointing domestic helps and drivers. A detailed background check on him or her with police assistance is advised.

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The next time you consider hiring a call driver to take you on an outing, you might want to ensure that you put some safeguards in place.

For most people, especially the elderly, the call driver service, wherein a driver comes to one’s house and drives them around, is a very popular option. However, it is important to realise that there are no regulations in place to monitor the credentials of these drivers.

A Google search reveals at least 20 such services in Chennai.

In addition, many people often go to smaller agencies that do not have a presence online.

The problem with these agencies is that there is no guarantee of whether they have checked the drivers’ credentials before they send them on an assignment.

“I have been calling one service whenever I need to go out. So far, I have not met the owner and they send a different driver every time. One time, the driver they sent was drunk and I had to send him home, but neither my husband nor I know how to drive. So this is our only option,” R. Geetha from Nandanam said.

According to an official of the State Transport Department, since these drivers are employed to drive cars owned by individuals, they do not require any qualification other than a driving licence.

Often, an individual without any affiliation to any agency can offer to drive someone’s car for a fee and thus, also become a call driver. The police, however, are planning to regulate call driver and call taxi services. In the meanwhile, they advise that people who hire these drivers ensure that they demand a copy of their licence and other details before they trust them.

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