The accused hail from Kannur and Kozhikode
The police on Saturday arrested five men in connection with the murder of gem dealer and self-styled “royal” Hari Hara Varma, 68, here on December 24.
They identified the accused as M. Jithesh, 33; V. Ajeesh, 27; Rakhil, 24; Jitesh’s cousin, Rakesh, 21; and J. Joseph, 20. They hail from lower middle class families in Kannur and Kozhikode districts and were part of a fraternity of Malayali students in Bangalore. Joseph is the son of a planter in Karnataka. All are first offenders with no previous police record.
Investigators said that Jitesh, who was occasionally Varma’s middleman in “shadowy” deals involving the transaction of antiques and jewels of questionable value, had plotted the crime to make quick money.
Gems of little value
They said that Jitesh had, of late, become sceptical of Varma’s claim that the “gems” in his possession were family heirlooms. Jitesh suspected the stones were stolen and reckoned that Varma would not approach the police if he could steal them himself. (The police would subsequently recover the stones from the suspects and find them to be of scarce value).
Varma insisted that buyers approaching him prove their solvency, as a rich collector did in November, by paying a non-refundable cash advance of not less than Rs.50,000 just for viewing the “gems”. He dealt with potential buyers in hotels or rented houses and required them to buy or bring him soft drinks.
The police case was that the suspects, who knew of Varma’s habits, met him as buyers at a house he had rented here on December 24 and spiked his drink, and that of his lawyer Haridas, with powdered sleeping pills.
When the barbiturates seemed to have no effect on the men, the accused allegedly smothered them with chloroform-soaked cloth. They bound and gagged them, confiscated the “gems” and their mobile phones and fled the spot. Later, Jitesh anonymously called Haridas’s son on the lawyer’s mobile phone and asked him to attend to his father. (Forensic doctors concluded that Varma had died from the combined effects of “chloroform smothering and blunt force applied on his throat”.)
The police team headed by Additional Director General of Police A. Hemachandran; Assistant Commissioner K.E. Baiju; and Sub Inspector C. Mohanan relied, chiefly, on clues provided by Varma’s mobile phone to identify the suspects.
One was Varma’s middleman in jewel deals All five have no previous police record
One was Varma’s middleman in jewel deals
All five have no previous police record