The police are at their wits' end trying to solve the mystery of the death of Sundariamma, 69, almost a year ago.

Cobwebs drape the garish pink walls of the first among a line of two-room houses where 69-year-old Sundariamma, until she was hacked to death a year ago, lived and sold idlis for migrant workers.

The ‘line’ house, the first among a row of three, is secured by a rusty padlock. Framed photographs of deities are visible through the front grills. Moss and other stains cover the crumbling walls of the tenement located near the Government Arts and Science College at Meenchanda here.

The musty odour of wet clothes fills the air in the small enclosure where rubble from a broken compound wall lie strewn. The old neighbours have mostly shifted out after the night of the gruesome murder, unable to get rid of the vision of an old woman lying dead on the floor of her house in the early hours of July 21 last.

The new ones have, of course, heard of the incident, but they have been spared the sight.

Besides, life is grim for the tenants here. There is hardly room for remembrance.

The police have made zero headway into the murder, of which circumstances is almost a throwback to Fyodor Dostoevsky’s classic Crime and Punishment. The trail had quickly turned cold despite a special team under the personal monitoring of G. Sparjankumar, Commissioner of Police, Kozhikode city, taking over the probe.

Preliminary investigation had claimed that the woman was attacked with sharp weapons during a burglary attempt. But gold ornaments and Rs.6,500 in Sundariamma’s possession were found intact in the house.

Then the investigators had said the killer entered her house through the roof. They pointed to some bamboo poles found near her house. The case reached a dead-end after fingerprints and forensic analysis yielded no clues to the killer’s identity. A year later, the police chief accepts defeat.

“We have no eyewitness, no motive, and no forensic clues. In the beginning, we thought it was a migrant worker. But all the suspects seemed to be clear. We tried our level best to crack the case, but no luck,” Mr. Sparjankumar told The Hindu on Thursday. He said the investigation is now with the Crime Branch.

Sundariamma lived alone. Ashraf P., who runs the Naz Coolbar in the neighbourhood, says she had been “living in that house ever since he could remember”.

“She used to complain of chest pain. On the night of the murder, we heard a scream. My father rushed to check and found the front door bolted. So he went to the rear. We saw a figure rush out of her house. We didn’t notice the body immediately. I remember my father and some other neighbours rushed after the figure,” said a young neighbour, one of the few remaining.

They say there was a break-in exactly a week before in Sundariamma’s house. The intruder had landed inside the kitchen where there was no further ingress into the room where the woman slept. That day she was preparing to visit her two daughters in Wayanad and Coimbatore. She had prepared batter for the idlis. She was an independent woman,” Mahima P., a neighbour, said.

As Dostoevsky wrote in his classic: “If only to live, to live and live! Life, whatever it may be!”

More In: Kozhikode