Founder of the Cafe Coffee Day chain of coffee shops and son-in-law of senior BJP politician and former Karnataka CM S.M. Krishna, V.G. Siddhartha, went missing in Mangaluru on Monday evening.
"He had left Bengaluru on Monday to Sakaleshpura but asked the driver to go to Mangaluru and when they reached the city, he again asked the driver to go to Ullal. At the bridge across Netravati river, at around 6.30 p.m., he asked the driver to park the vehicle, as he would have a walk on the scenic bridge, and he had to make a few calls. The driver called Siddhartha when he did not turn up even after an hour. It had also begun to rain. His phone was switched off and he was nowhere on the bridge," said a senior policeman on the circumstances under which the businessman had gone missing.
Meanwhile, Mr. Siddhartha’s driver Basavaraj Patil said in a complaint filed with Kankanady police in Mangaluru filed around 12.30 a.m. on July 30 that he was missing. The driver said that he picked up his owner from his Sadashivanagar house around 8 a.m. on July 29. Later they went to his office in Vittal Mallya Road in Bengaluru and returned to Sadashivanagar around 11 a.m. The complaint said that later Mr. Siddhartha asked the driver to get his (driver’s) luggage as he wanted to go to his native place. They left for Sakaleshpur in Hassan district in the Innova car in the noon. When they reached Sakaleshpur, Mr. Siddhartha asked the driver to go to Mangaluru.
In Mangaluru, he asked the driver to take a deviation at a circle (Pumpwell Circle) to Kerala stating that he wanted to visit his site. When they approached the Netravathi bridge he asked the driver to stop the vehicle at one end of the bridge and said that he would return after a walk. He told the driver to wait in the car. The driver said that he walked on the bridge towards Mangaluru city. When he did not return even at 8 p.m. he called him on his mobile phone and it was switched off. Then he called up Mr. Siddhartha’s son Amartya Hegde at about 9 p.m. and told him that Mr. Siddhartha’s cellphone was switched off.
Later Pradeep Shetty, an employee of Mr. Siddhartha’s company in Mangaluru, arrived on the spot. The driver told him the sequence of events. According to Hanumantaraya, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Law and Order), Mangaluru, Mr. Siddhartha made the last call from his cell phone at 6 p.m. on July 29. He told reporters on July 30 that the last call was made to Javed, Chief Finance Officer of the company. It was related to business matter, the DCP said at Jeppinamogaru near the Netravathi bridge where the search operations are on.
No letter found
Police have not found any letter or note from the car in which Siddhartha travelled from Bengaluru to Mangaluru on July 29, according to Hanumantaraya, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Law and Order), Mangaluru. He told reporters that police were now inquiring his friends and relatives as part of the investigation.
The Coast Guard has stepped up its search operation both in Netravathi river and Arabian sea in Mangaluru. S. S. Dasila, Commander, Coast Guard, Karnataka, said in a communiqué that ICGS Rajdoot was patrolling off the Old Mangaluru Port. It is now keeping a lookout very close to the harbour. Another ship, ICGS Savitribai Phule, had been kept on standby for deploying off the Old Mangaluru Port at short notice, he said. Three Coast Guard diving teams along with the District Disaster Relief Team had been deputed to carry out a search, he said. A Coast Guard hovercraft was carrying out a search in the Netravathi and providing support to the diving teams, he said.
The Indian Navy is sending an ALH Helicopter from Goa and two boats and a diving team from INS Kadamba naval base in Karwar for the rescue operations, according to official sources.
"No angle is being neglected," a senior official said. Mangaluru Police Commissioner Sandeep Patil said the dog squad was used and it stopped in the middle of the bridge. Boat service and local fishermen had been called in to search in the river. The police were checking on whom all he spoke to last, the Commissioner said. While they are probing for any foul play, they have also launched a search operation in the river.
Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa and senior congressman D.K. Shivakumar rushed to meet S.M. Krishna at his Sadashivanagar residence.
Former Urban Development Minister and in-charge minister of Dakshina Kannada U.T. Khader has joined the search team in Mangaluru. Halappa Gowda and Mohammed, classmates of Mr. Siddhartha and managers of the coffee estate owned by Mr. Siddhartha in Chikkamagaluru, have arrived in Mangaluru to join the search team. They said that they had come to know that he was missing at about 10 p.m. on Monday. The place where Mr. Siddarth reportedly went missing is about three km from the mouth (the place where the river joins sea) of the river.
Congress leader and former Karnataka minister D.K. Shivakumar tweeted at around 11.40 a.m on July 30: "The letter purportedly written by Shri VG Siddhartha which is circulating is dated July 27th. I received a call from him on the 28th asking if we could meet up. It’s unbelievable that a courageous man like him would resort to this."
He added that he found "this utterly fishy" and asked for a thorough investigation to be conducted.
Saw a person falling from bridge, claims fisherman
Simon D'souza, a fisherman, has reportedly seen a person falling from the Nethravati bridge on Tuesday. Speaking to a news channel, Mr.D'Souza said he saw a person falling from the bridge around 7 pm on Monday. "I was alone and was not in a position to rush and rescue the person, " he told the news channel.
The police said they are yet to the person who has reportedly seen the incident. "His statement looks very vague. Any how, we are tracing him and cross verify his statement, " said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Hanumantharaya.