Shaji Purushothaman, prime suspect in the Mercedes accident case, arrived at Chennai airport under heavy police escort from Kochi at 6.40 p.m. on Thursday, bringing to a close a 20-day manhunt. He was remanded to judicial custody till June 27 and sent to Puzhal prison.
Earlier in the day, at 9.30 a.m., he was detained by the immigration wing of the Cochin international airport at Nedumbassery, near Kochi, and subsequently handed over to a waiting team of Tamil Nadu police. A lookout circular against Shaji had been issued at airports across India.
Shaji, scion of the Empee Group, a leading conglomerate with stakes in the hospitality, liquor, sugar and power industries, is alleged to have driven a Mercedes-Benz while drunk in the early hours of May 23 and ploughed into people sleeping on a pavement in Egmore, killing a 13-year-old boy and causing grievous injuries to a 10-year-old girl. Absconding since then, Shaji was declared a proclaimed offender.
Immigration officials at the Cochin airport said Shaji seemed to have come prepared to surrender. Airport sources confirmed this, saying he had no plans to continue his travel from Kochi.
Tamil Nadu police, which is learnt to have tipped off immigration officials the previous day about Shaji’s arrival, had sent a team ahead of the big day.
Since the TN police officials were already present and planning to take the accused by flight on the same day, he was not handed over at the local police station, which is the usual practice.
At 4.55 p.m., the accused was flown to Chennai by a Jet Airways flight.