Unyielding suspect was pinned down by scientific evidence and recovery of guns and ammo

Painstaking investigation that combined a scientific approach with conventional methods helped the Crime Branch CID of the State Police procure a conviction in the sensational Dilson murder case.

Lt. Col. Kandasamy Ramaraj, a retired Army official, who was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Fast Track Court in Chennai on Friday, was the lone suspect.

It was on July 3 last year when 13-year-old K. Dilson who went to pluck fruits in the Defence Residential Complex here was shot dead. With almost no clues to begin with, the case was a difficult one as there were no eyewitness or apparent motive. However, taking into account the scene and the line of fire, investigators zeroed in on two suspects, including a serving Army officer, living in a building close to the spot where Dilson was shot.

While suspicion remained on Ramaraj, the young serving army officer was let go after his claim that he was away at the time of firing was proved by the footage of surveillance cameras installed around the Secretariat. Ramaraj's seeming sangfroid cracked when he was confronted with some indisputable facts.

The suspect confessed to police that he shot Dilson with his 0.30 calibre Springfield rifle. The weapon and ammunition were seized from the Cooum based on his information. Though Ramaraj told Army officials who enquired into the murder that he was not in possession of any weapon, enquiries revealed that he had given an application for renewing the licence for his imported rifle, agency sources said.

The judge observed in the verdict that the omission to disclose what was in one's exclusive knowledge could be used to substantiate the charge in a case involving circumstantial evidence.

Striation pattern

Explaining how scientific evidence helped to pin down the suspect, Investigation Officer and Deputy Superintendent of Police M. Prabaharan said the striation pattern on the bullet was the most crucial piece evidence against the accused.

The bullet that killed Dilson first pierced through his head and then hit a wall nearby.

Ballistic experts recovered the bullet and recorded the striation pattern on it. Striation marks are those left behind on the bullet by the internal part of any gun's barrel as it passes through it. These marks resemble a bar code and will be unique to each firearm. The weapon recovered from the river was used to fire another bullet and the striation pattern on it was compared to the pattern on the bullet used in the crime to prove that the same rifle was used to fire at the boy.

“This evidence was enough to connect Ramaraj with the weapon, the bullet and the firing. After murdering Dilson, the accused kept his rifle/ammunition in his car and parked it in the Golf Course premises nearby. Later, he drove to the Napier Bridge and dropped the weapon and bullets in the Cooum. Some minors who saw the accused tried to tamper with evidence at the scene of firing deposed in the court,” he said.

Superintendent of Police S. Rajeswari who led one of the teams that investigated the case said Ramaraj, an expert in small arms, not only pleaded ignorance but kept blaming others in the residential complex. “Since there was a weapon in almost every house, we could not ignore his claims. Moreover, he gave a statement to the Army that he had no weapon in his possession. The clue given by the domestic help that Ramaraj's wife did not cook for three days after the murder was the first indication of his guilt,” she said.

Dilson's murder took place days before Ramaraj was planning to shift and settle down in Madurai. Having served in the Army for years as Arms Inspector, he had an in-depth knowledge in the mechanism and handling of small arms. “The firing cannot be treated as an act of sudden provocation…the accused had time to load the rifle, aim and fire. He also tried to tamper with evidence at the scene and also conceal the weapon,” an investigator said.

At a crowded press conference on Friday evening, Additional Director General of Police N.P. Singh said justice had been done to the family that had lost a child. The CBCID had cracked the case in less that a week's time. The conviction would strengthen people's faith in Tamil Nadu police, he added.