A brawl outside a TASMAC shop in Saibaba Colony in the city has turned four friends into murderers. The victim N. Santhoshkumar (29), a painter was brought to the TASMAC shop by two of his friends and a drunken brawl broke out when they were about to leave.

Even as they emerged from the TASMAC shop, the two who were already drunk called their friends over phone and two others, who came on a motorcycle, joined them in assaulting the painter N. Santhoshkumar. The four took turns in dropping a stone on the head of the victim. They were under the influence of alcohol. The victim is survived by his wife and a toddler.

M. Krishnan (28) of Rathinapuri, R. Murugan (21) of Madurai, M. Ramachandran (26) of Kannappapuram and P. Ganesan (31) have become the accused in a case of murder, which was originally registered as an attempt to murder.

This happened in broad day light, around 1.30 p.m., in the midst of heavy traffic. Vehicle users and passers-by were mere spectators of the incident which happened near the ARC Junction on Mettuppalayam Road.

Only after the police stepped in, was the victim admitted to Coimbatore Medical College Hospital. He had grievous injuries and failed to respond to treatment and died on Tuesday morning. A case of attempt to murder was registered by the Saibaba Police.

The investigation team lead by Saibaba Police Inspector R. Srinivasalu (Law and Order) found clinching evidence in the form of a video footage. The entire incident was captured by a surveillance camera installed at the junction. The footage showed the victim being hit on his head with a stone by the gang in an inebriated condition. Later all four were booked on charges of murder amending the FIR from 'attempt to murder'.

On Tuesday, relatives and family members of the deceased refused to accept the body. The police had a tough time as tense moments prevailed at the hospital premises when the relatives tried to block the road. The victim's wife Sarojini flayed the public for having failed to prevent a murderous attack. She added that timely help by the public in ensuring medical aid could have saved her husband and blamed them for being mute spectators.

The family members later presented a memorandum to the Collector demanding Rs. 5 lakh compensation and a Government job for her so as to take care of her child.

City Police Commissioner Amaresh Pujari speaking to The Hindu said the public should come forward and help fellow citizens in trouble. "Even if they could not resolve the dispute between the attackers and the victim", they could have called the police control room. He assured citizens that the public passing on such information would not not be cited as witnesses without their consent and would be saved from the trouble of frequenting the police station and courts.

Mr. Pujari added that police personnel on patrolling duty have been asked to frequent areas where TASMAC outlets are located to prevent drunken brawls as part of their law and order maintenance duty. He also warned that strict action will be taken against persons involved in disturbing public peace. To the question of detaining the four under Goondas Act, Mr. Pujari said that legal experts are being consulted for detention.

A police source said that statistics were not available regarding the number of cases booked for drunken brawls or clashes leading to hurt as people prefer complaints only if there is a threat to life or bleeding injury.

Surveillance cameras came handy in this case to nab the accused. Mr.Pujari reiterated the need for public co-operation and added that before the month-end 50 more such secret cameras will be installed in vantage locations across the city.

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