A triumph of investigation

THE FORENSIC reconstruction of the crime scene and circumstantial evidence helped the Crime Branch prove the murder of Jayakumari (26) whose charred body was found in the backyard of her house in Vanchiyoor on November 16, 1995.

Initially classified as a case of suicide by the local police, the Crime Branch re-investigation into the death of Jayakumari led to the conviction of her husband, Balakrishnan alias Soman, and his brother, Sreekumar alias Chanthu, for murder.

On September 23 this year, both were sentenced to life for murder under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) by the Additional Sessions Judge, Y. Thajudeen Koya. The court also found Balakrishnan guilty of cruelty to his wife, Jayakumari, under section 498 of the IPC.

Mr. A. K. Venugopal, currently Assistant Commissioner (Fort), who led the Crime Branch investigation said the police had little evidence to start with. There were no witnesses to the crime. The accused stuck by their claim that Jayakumari had committed suicide by dousing her body with kerosene and setting herself on fire.

Using photographs taken by the police immediately after the incident was reported, the Crime Branch re-constructed the scene of crime. The charred body was found in a sitting position near the courtyard wall. There were no signs of struggle. Neighbours testified that they had heard no sound.

At the time of death, Jayakumari seemed to have been completely motionless. There was no medical evidence of any injury on her body. The forensic expert told the court that there was a distinct possibility that Jayakumari had been rendered unconscious and then set on fire. The place and posture of the dead body and absence of any movements or sound supported this deduction.

Neighbours told the Crime Branch that Balakrishnan and his brother, Sreekumar, were present at the house at the time of Jayakumari's death. Their conduct after the incident aroused the suspicion of the investigators. Witnesses also testified that Balakrishnan was in the habit of beating his wife. The judge found that `there is cogent and convincing evidence to show that in spite of continuous cruelty on the part of her husband, Jayakumari led a normal life for her children and there was no necessity for her to commit suicide'. The court also found a strong motive on the part of Balakrishnan to do away with Jayakumari.

The case was prosecuted by Additional Public Prosecutor, M. Nazimudeen.