Salem tense as people protest 'custodial death'

SALEM, JUNE 16. A tense situation prevailed in Salem and traffic was blocked for over four hours today after a suspected custodial death triggered a protest by the people, leading to suspension of three police personnel.

A large crowd including women squatted on the road near the Gandhi statue, demanding action against the officials responsible for the death of Thillainathan, a rowdy element in Salem's Kichipalayam area, allegedly involved in some major theft cases.

According to police sources, his body was found near a bridge last evening, after he had been taken into custody by the Salem town police earlier in the day in execution of a magistrate's arrest warrant.

While senior police officials rushed to the spot, recovered the body and sent it for post-mortem at the Mohan Kumaramangalam Government Medical College Hospital, the circumstances under which it was found led the people to suspect 'foul play'.

The police sought to pacify the irate crowd saying Thillainathan 'gave the slip' when he was being taken to the court. The police chased the fleeing accused, but he after banging against a tree, suffered serious injuries, swooned and collapsed, they claimed.

Thillainathan was declared dead when the police admitted him to a private nursing home. However, while accompanying the body to Kichipalayam, the escorting policemen were alleged to have abandoned it as the car in which they were travelling developed a mechanical snag.

The nervous car driver allegedly dumped the body on the road and left the place. Some passers-by informed the police of the corpse.

After the post-mortem today, the body was handed over to the deceased's father who took it to his native place under heavy police escort, sources said.

Meanwhile, the Police Commissioner, Mr. Ramanathan, suspended a sub-inspector, Mr. Gandhi, and two constables, Mr. Karthikeyan and Mr. Soundriyan, in connection with the death.