KOCHI: Crime and murders are quite common in Kochi, and the city police are known for their knack for cracking complex mysteries. However, multiple cases, even those that took place over a decade ago, remain puzzles for investigation agencies like the Crime Branch, and even the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The New Indian Express looks at major cases from the city that continue to riddle the cops
According to Ammos Mamman, the retired deputy superintendent of police, who has worked with Kochi City Police and Crime Branch units, unsolved cases are moved to the ‘unidentified’ category, if there are no new lead after 10 years of investigation. For this, a report is filed at the court. In sensational cases, the investigation is continued for a longer period. “However, that doesn’t mean such cases are closed. If we find a new clue, then the case can be reopened for the probe. Just that they won’t be actively perceived on a daily basis,” he said.
With crimes becoming a daily affair, many cases are forgotten and fade away from the public memory.
The collectorate explosion
Another incident that remains a black mark on police and Crime branch records is the minor explosion at the district collectorate on July 10, 2009. From the forensic tests, it was evident that glyceryl trinitrate, also known as nitroglycerin, was used to make the bomb that exploded on the fifth floor of the collectorate.
“This case was probed by a special investigation team comprising well-reputed officers with plenty of experience. The team questioned several persons with affiliations to various terrorist groups, but till now no link could be established. There are no suspects in the case till now. However, after the incident, the security arrangements at the collectorate were strengthened,” said an official with the Crime Branch.
The Mithila shootout
Another major murder that shocked Kochi was the death of businessman V M Mohanan aka Mithila Mohan, owner of Mithila bar, on April 5, 2006. He was shot dead at the doorstep of his house at point-blank range. The case was probed by police and the Crime Branch before it was handed over to CBI a few years ago. In 2013, Crime Branch arrested one Santhosh Kumar, who police said hired sharp shooters to murder Mohan. But then, the case hit a dead end after the shooters were deemed unidentifiable.
The woman in blanket
On February 13, 2019 a seminarian spotted the dead body of a woman wrapped in blankets with a heavy stone tied to it by the Periyar river near Aluva. The police went as far as identifying the shop in Kalamassery from which the blanket was purchased, but couldn’t identify the victim or perpetrator. The case was recently handed over to the Crime Branch. “We collected details of women who were reported missing in the past few years. But none of them matched with the victim. The case remains a mystery. We suspect the victim was strangled to death,” a Crime Branch official said.
Two bodies — one, of a youngster found inside a gunny sack and another of a woman inside a barrel — was found in Nettoor lake between November 2017 and January 2018. One of them was identified as 47-year-old Shakunthala Damodharan, native of Udayamperoor. Bu, a youth, is yet to be identified. Even Shakunthala’s whereabouts or the motive for murder has still not been identified. For now, it is assumed that she was killed by T A Sajith, an Inspector with Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), who killed himself later.
Shakunthala’s body was identified by the malleolar screw on her left ankle. Based on the batch number given on the screw, Police concluded that it was, in fact, Shakunthala, who underwent surgery at a hospital in Tripunithura in September 2016. The skeletal form of the body was found in a barrel filled with concrete on January 8, 2018, a day before the accused Sajith died of suicide. The police assumed that Sajith had illicit relationship with Shakunthala’s daughter, and the conflict led to her murder. “It was proposed we do a polygraph test of the deceased woman’s daughter, but she did not agree to it. As for the youth’s dead body, it was revealed that he was smothered to death. We still haven’t identified him,” said an official with Ernakulam South police station.
Over three years have passed since the corpse of Mishel Shaji, 19, was found floating on the backwaters of Kochi. The investigators still do not know what caused it. Though the Crime Branch claims it was a suicide, they havn’t found enough evidence to substantiate this angle.. Desperate family members are seeking a CBI probe in the case.
“There are several mysteries related to the death of my daughter, which neither the police or the Crime Branch could figure out. They have not revealed anything about the time of death in the case. They could not identify two persons who were following my daughter the day before she was found dead.
We approached the High Court for a CBI probe. But the Crime Branch is yet to file a report in the court. I had met Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in February this year, and he promised to speed up the process. But over eight months have passed since then. Apart from an oral submission claiming it was a suicide, the Crime Branch is yet to file a report at the court,” said Shaji Varghese, Mishel’s father.