Family alleges suspect was beaten to death; police, however, say it was suicide

A suspect in the October 18 robbery here died in police custody on Friday, sparking allegations by his family that he was beaten to death.

The police, however, termed it as suicide and said two police officials were suspended later in the day for failing to keep a watch on the suspect.

The police claimed that 45-year-old A. Seeni committed suicide by hanging in the toilet at the Vilakkuthoon police station.

A father of three children, Seeni, who belonged to Sellur, had been working as a loadman for two decades. According to Uma, his wife, the Teppakulam police picked up Seeni on Sunday in connection with the probe into an incident in which a trader, Y. Sathyamoorthy, was robbed of Rs. 15 lakh last Friday on Kamaraj Salai.

“He returned home the same night. However, he was again summoned by the police on Wednesday. All my attempts to meet him, with the help of an advocate in the last two days went in vain. This morning, the police told me that my husband developed stomach ache and asked me to come to the (Government Rajaji) hospital. They now say he is dead. Even now, we are not allowed to see his body,” she cried at the hospital.

Seeni’s friend Manikandan said the family members were made to run from pillar to post and not allowed to meet him in police custody. The family had visited Teppakulam, South Gate and Vilakkuthoon police stations, where the police claimed that Seeni was not in their custody.

In a petition submitted to District Collector L. Subramanian, the elder son of the deceased, S. Neethiraj, alleged that his father was tortured and killed by the police. He sought a five-member medical team to carry out post-mortem examination. He also demanded legal action against the police officials involved in the custodial death.

However, Commissioner of Police Sanjay Mathur refuted the charge of torture. He was called for questioning with regard to the robbery and let off a few days back.

The police had picked up three other suspects, Senthil Kumar, Nazeer and Muthuramalingam, on Thursday night. “Based on their confession, Seeni was again picked up today (Friday) morning,” he added.

Seeni was interrogated at the Vilakkuthoon police station, which was temporarily housed in the old District Police Office building, adjacent to the Commissioner’s office. He went to the toilet at the station at around noon and did not return. “When the police opened the door (which could not be locked from inside), they found him hanging with his dhoti tied to a pipeline,” Mr. Mathur said.

Seeni, who was working for Sathyamoorthy, had some dispute with him and wanted to take revenge on his former employer. Knowing Sathyamoorthy’s routine movement, Seeni had conspired with his friend, Sakthivel, another loadman, and others to rob him, he said and claimed that they have recovered a portion of the money and were on the lookout for Sakthivel.

Stating that Seeni was not involved in any other crime in the past, the Commissioner said he might have taken the extreme step feeling ashamed of his role in the robbery.

Suspension

Inspector Selvakumar, and Special Sub-Inspector Ravindran (both belonging to the crime wing of Teppakulam police), were placed under suspension for negligence of duty. “They failed to keep a watch on this suspect,” he added. The case of custodial death would be probed by a judicial magistrate, he added.

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