Planned. Killed. Caught
CHENNAI: In hindsight, it is wicked irony that the victim, S Kathiravan was blindfolded and attacked from behind, in a plan devised by his wife. But, he was already on borrowed time as he was supposed to be killed during his honeymoon.
Kathiravan, a software engineer working with TCS, Siruseri near Chennai, got married to Vinothini, an MCA graduate, on September 12, 2018, in Vilathikulam, Tuticorin district. What was supposed to be happily-ever-after turned fatal very soon.
The couple fought often, and Vinothini began staying with a relative for most part of the month between her wedding and the day she executed her plan.
A perfect murder…almost
On October 12, she returned to her matrimonial home in Pallavaram near Chennai and was acting normal. The couple went to a movie that evening.
Vinothini’s lover, Anthony Jegan, had boarded a train from Madurai the same evening. Three years younger to her, he was pursuing MA History at Madurai Kamaraj University at the time.
After the movie, Vinothini told her husband that she had to visit a friend in Tiruvanmiyur the next day (Oct 13) and took him to the beach. She chose a secluded area behind a dune. Under the guise of playing a game, Vinothini blindfolded him and within a few minutes, he was attacked on the back of his head, with a hammer and a sickle by Jegan. Kathiravan succumbed to his injuries at a private hospital on October 15.
“To make it look like a case of murder for gain, Vinothini gave away her thaali and mobile phones to Jegan,” additional public prosecutor, A Govindarajan said.
However, police began to doubt her version when investigations began. “Vinothini had said that there were two attackers and that they made no demands and straightaway assaulted her husband. By that time, the doctors said that the man was attacked with an intent to kill. It was highly unlikely that robbers would kill for a few sovereigns of gold and mobile phones. Plus, the woman was unharmed, which was suspicious,” recalled the investigating officer.
Doubts lead to inquiry
As family members from both sides started gathering at the hospital, a team from Tiruvanmiyur police station conducted enquiries at the beach about the incident.
While there were no witnesses to the attack, a young couple on the beach had seen 3 people behind a dune. A couple of fishermen said that they had noticed a young man walking towards and from the dune at the time the attack happened.
“There were no CCTV at the scene of crime. Based on enquiries, we traced the path taken by the suspect along the beach. After changing his shirt, Jegan came out from the beach behind Murugan temple. Incidentally, we had installed CCTV cameras there a few weeks ago,” said Assistant Commissioner S Christin Jayasil, who was Tiruvanmiyur Inspector at the time.
With the CCTV image of the suspect in hand, Jayasil and his team began enquiries. When the image was shown to Vinothini, she claimed that he was not the attacker. The presence of her husband’s relatives at the hospital, however exposed the holes in her stories.
Police enquired with Kathiravan’s family members by showing the CCTV images and asked if he had any previous enmity. One of his relatives recalled seeing Jegan at both the engagement and wedding and said that he was the bride’s friend.
The needle of suspicion fell on Vinothini who spilled the beans, but not before alerting Jegan that the police had made him. Jayasil and his team rushed to Madurai the same evening.
After a stakeout, Jegan was picked up when he came out of the hostel to a tea stall on October 14. “We secured all exits. It would have been risky to enter a students’ hostel as they’d have created a ruckus and help him escape. So, we had to wait it out,” a cop recalled.
With the mobile phones of Jegan and Vinothini in police possession and after sustained investigations, police began to connect the dots.
It emerged that it was not the first time they planned to murder Kathiravan.
Plans go awry
Two weeks after their wedding, Kathiravan and Vinothini went to Yelagiri for their honeymoon and checked into Hotel Emerald Dove on September 27, 2018.
The next day, Jegan checked into the same hotel. According to the prosecution, he had egged Vinothini to kill Kathiravan at the hotel, but she could not to it.
Police recovered CCTV footage of Jegan and Vinothini talking for several hours in the hotel lounge. They also got witness statements from the hotel staff who remember Jegan checking into the hotel. “We recovered the CCTV footage just in time, before they got automatically erased. The hotel staff too remembered Jegan well because he had missed his phone charger in the hotel room and had asked them to courier it to his hostel,” Jayasil said.
Having failed in their attempt to kill Kathiravan at Yelagiri, the duo plotted again and executed the plan at Tiruvanmiyur, the prosecution told the court.
One of Jegan’s classmates had given a statement that he had seen Vinothini and Jegan travel together in bus, but he turned hostile.
While the police had secured the murder weapons — hammer and billhook — and had also got statements from two different hardware stores in Madurai, from where the weapons were bought, it was the chain of electronic evidence which clinched the case for the prosecution.
Jegan’s cell phone tower data showed that he was present in Tiruvanmiyur at the time of the attack, and had left for Madurai soon after.
The electronic evidence collected by Tiruvanmiyur police added weightage to their case. Kathiravan’s parents had deposed that their son was sleeping in another room and their daughter-in-law was talking on phone most of the time.
Records between October 1 and 13, 2018, collected by police from telecom companies proved vital to the case. The duo had also communicated through SMS.
“On the day of the attack, Vinothini had sent 126 text messages to Jegan, and 86 SMSes were sent by Jegan back to her. Between October 1 and October 13, 55 calls were made from their numbers between 9 pm and 1 am,” police said to the court.
On October 12, the day Kathiravan and Vinothini went on a movie date, there were 35 calls made between Vinothini and Jegan’s number. The next day, when Kathiravan was attacked, there were 16 calls made between their mobile phones, out of which 9 were made from 6.40 am to 11 am, before he was attacked.
Proven guilty & sentenced
While the accused’s counsel tried various means to break the prosecution theory, the I Additional Sessions Judge, V Thanga Mariappan held that the prosecution has provided sufficient circumstantial evidence and material records to prove the charge is complete, coherent and beyond all reasonable doubt.
During cross examination, the defence and Jegan were unable to explain why he had stayed at the hotel in Yelagiri when Vinothini and Kathiravan were on their honeymoon. Nor were they able to justify Jegan’s presence at Tiruvanmiyur beach on the day Kathiravan was killed.
Vinothini and Jegan were sentenced to life in prison. Assistant Commissioner Jayasil ranks this among the best investigated case in his career.
On the day Kathiravan was killed, his father, N Shanmugasundaram was in Pudukkottai for a funeral. A retired BSNL engineer, Shanmugasundaram made it his mission to get justice for his son’s death, and appeared for all hearings, say cops. He had also engaged his own counsel to assist the prosecution in the case.
The suspects are likely to appeal against the judgment in the High Court, but the prosecution is confident that they have a solid case in their hands.