In depth: Here's the complete story behind Swathi's murder
CHENNAI: Cops sift through five lakh call details to zero in on suspect’s location, but it was the shoe-leather investigation that fetched the results, as during door-to-door inquiry, roommate of the alleged killer Ramkumar recognised him.
Bit by bit, call after call, Chennai police put the pieces together
For the city police, the probe into the murder of young techie S Swathi on the platform of Nungambakkam railway station was as messy as it came: 72 hours had gone by since she was murdered in public view, but the only identifiable detail was a rather common check shirt and black trouser. Complicating the matter was the rising outrage among the middle class. Right from the beginning, this was a fight against the clock.
On June 24, around 6.35 am, Swathi entered the Nungambakkam railway station to go to her office as usual. On that day, however, a young man was waiting for her for about 30 minutes on platform 2. After a brief argument, he hacked her and fled at 6.42 am. That was the last anyone saw of him. By the time the City Police took over investigations on June 27, the Government Railway Police had released two CCTV footages that vaguely showed the suspect – a dark youth wearing a green and white check shirt and carrying a backpack. There, however, was no response from the public. No one came forward to identify him.
The first real clue came from her friend, Mohammed Bilal, who said Swathi had told him about a person stalking her. Swathi apparently told him that she noticed the stalker at Paranur, the railway station near Mahindra City where her Infosys workplace was located.
That was on June 11. About a week later on June 16, she complained that this time the person was on the train, traveling from Nungambakkam to Paranur. It happened again on June 18, this time at Nungambakkam station.
The investigators saw a faint glimmer of hope. The officials accessed tower dump data from the mobile phone towers closest to these three areas, and compared it with the approximate time when she saw him. This was far from easy. There were over five lakh calls made around this time which they had to compare.
The task was tedious, but at the end of it, they short-listed 48 numbers that were common in these three places at the time. A team of officials began tracing the persons using these numbers. One of them had a South Tamil Nadu address, but the tower data showed he had been in Choolaimedu, close to Swathi’s place.
Even as the investigation progressed with the aid of technology, another team of personnel returned to shoe-leather investigation. Armed with an enhanced image of the suspect, they began knocking the doors at Choolaimedu, asking them if they identified the man in the photo.
After a series of disappointments, they struck luck when a person at AS Mansion at Choolaimedu identified the boy, Ramkumar. Natesan, the 50-year-old Tiruchy native who worked as a security guard, said they shared the room for over three months.
The police found the green shirt that the suspect wore that morning. Among his belongings, they found a diary that had a Tirunelveli address – same as the one that the mobile phone records showed. Chennai police commissioner immediately got in touch with Tirunelveli Superintendent of Police, who alerted inspector Balamurugam at Tenkasi.
By about 11.20 pm, inspector Balamurugan and a team of four officials landed at Meenakshipuram and surrounded the house. Ramkumar, who was sleeping in the backside, tried to escape but found himself surrounded. Officials said he slit his throat when cornered, following which he was rushed to GH at Tenkasi, from where he was taken to the GH in Tirunelveli.
Officials told Express that after he escaped from Nungambakkam station, Ramkumar went to his mansion on Showrastra Nagar 8th Street and changed his dress. He then took a local bus to Koyambedu. What began as four special teams went up to five and eight to finally 10, manned by 40 officials drawn from various parts of the city.
Senior officials said the major part of the investigation was over, but further investigations are on.