Cops file for custody; DNA sample to be taken for comparison with swabs from car

Shaji Purushothaman, accused of drunken driving and speeding and causing the death of a 13-year-old boy, now faces a new charge – driving without a valid licence.

A police source on Friday said that Shaji’s driving licence expired in 2012 and had not been renewed. Details of his licence surfaced when investigators checked the registration particulars of the Mercedes he was driving on May 23.

After days of eluding police, the scion of the Empee Group, who is facing a non-bailable arrest warrant and has been declared a proclaimed offender, was caught by immigration authorities and the police at Kochi international airport on Thursday.

With eyewitnesses and the preliminary investigation case placing Shaji behind the wheel, the expired licence only strengthens the case against him. If found guilty, he could face imprisonment for up to 10 years or a fine or both, police said.

During a 40-minute interrogation session by a special police team on Thursday, Shaji reportedly told police that he fled to Bangalore by road and flew to Thailand from there via Colombo.

At his hideout, a motel in Bangkok, he managed to get a SIM card and kept in touch with his family and a few friends.

Asked what he was doing during his stay in Bangkok, Shaji said he closely followed the news updates on the case on newspaper websites.

The accident, which took place in the early hours of May 23, killed a 13-year-old boy and injured four others.

First class jail facilities

On Friday, the traffic investigation team that is probing the case filed a petition at the Egmore magistrate court, seeking police custody of Shaji for interrogation for five days. Metropolitan magistrate L. Abraham Lincoln directed the superintendent, Puzhal Central Prison to produce Shaji in court on June 17 to respond to the petition. The court also directed the prison authorities to give Shaji ‘first class facilities’ in jail, following an application from him.

The police will soon file a chargesheet and seek a trial in a Fast Track Court, sources said.

Swabs to be taken

Forensic investigators will soon take swabs from Shaji, who is at Puzhal Central prison at present, to compare his DNA with any that is potentially found on the airbags of the Mercedes.

The airbags were sent to the Tamil Nadu Forensic Science Laboratory for analysis on Thursday.

“Our case is that Shaji drove the car while ‘Kudirai’ Kumar and two others were in the passenger seats. Though eyewitnesses, including a couple of police personnel, have given statements confirming they saw him behind the wheel, we are trying to collect scientific and circumstantial evidence to prove it. An identification parade will also be held soon,” a senior police officer told The Hindu.

Police are also trying to get footage from surveillance cameras installed in banks or other establishments on Pantheon Road between the stretch from Shaji’s flat and the scene of the accident.

More In: Chennai | News