The Ernakulam Rural police on Saturday filed the second chargesheet in a case registered in connection with the murder of a woman suspected to be the first of the two victims in the alleged human sacrifices at Elanthoor in Pathanamthitta district.
The chargesheet arraigning Shafi, 52, the key accused, and Bhagaval Singh, 67, and Laila, 58, was filed before the Perumbavur Judicial First Class Magistrate Court – 4 exactly 89 days after the arrest of the accused. The chargesheet runs into some 3,000 pages and contains over 200 witnesses’ statements and details of 44 material objects, 130 documentary evidences and knives used for the alleged murder.
The victim, originally from Idukki, had gone missing from Mattoor in Kalady where she was living.
“We have built a strong case based on solid circumstantial evidences and are confident that the chargesheet will lead to conviction,” District Police Chief (Ernakulam Rural) Vivek Kumar told a press conference at his headquarters at Aluva.
Though the victim had gone missing on June 6, a complaint was lodged with the Kalady police only on August 17. That she could have been murdered came to light only after the Kochi City police cracked the case of a missing lottery vendor from Kadavanthra as the victim of a suspected human sacrifice involving the same accused.
Admitting to delay in cracking the missing case, Mr. Kumar said the victim’s live-in partner had failed to lodge a complaint on time. “It was only after her daughter grew suspicious that a complaint was registered with the police,” he said.
The incident, though, seems to have served as a wake-up call, with 29 out of the 57 missing cases in rural limits being presently investigated.
Though Shafi had a rape case against him within the rural police limits, at no point did he appear on the radar of the investigation team probing the missing case.
The chargesheet has references to possible cannibalism, with the police having recovered the utensils allegedly used for cooking the flesh of the victim. Mr. Kumar, however, said Shafi’s potential links with those dealing in human flesh could not be established or that the flesh of the victim was taken outside.
Asked whether the chargesheet concludes it to be a case of human sacrifice, Mr. Kumar said the victim was enticed and the murder was driven by the desire for economic prosperity and superstition. “It is a rarest of rare case since there was clear motive, calculation, preparation and a cold-blooded murder which we have proved based on strong evidence,” he said.
The police have invoked IPC Sections 302 (murder), 364 (abduction), 370 (trafficking of persons), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 342 (wrongful confinement), 297 (trespassing on burial places), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence), 376 D (gang rape) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention).
Senior lawyer N.K. Unnikrishnan will be the special prosecutor. He was the special prosecutor in the Ernakulam law student murder case and the Koodathayi case.
The special investigation team was led by S. Sasidharan, Deputy Commissioner, Kochi City; Perumbavur Additional Superintendent of Police Anuj Paliwal; inspectors P.S. Shiju and N.A. Anoop, sub-inspectors T.B. Bibin, P.C. Prasad, assistant sub-inspector T.S. Siju; senior civil police officers M.V. Binu, M.R. Rajesh, P.A. Shibu, K.P. Habeeb, V.R. Anilkumar, M.S. Dileep Kumar, and P.M. Rithesh.