Over 20 months, V Simhadri stole around Rs 24 lakh in cash and gold worth 35.25 sovereigns from his alleged victims, police say.

news Crime Wednesday, November 06, 2019 - 11:02

Andhra police have nabbed an alleged serial killer who is accused of poisoning 10 victims with cyanide over a span of 20 months, including his grandmother, his sister-in-law and his landlord. 38-year-old Vellanki Simhadri, alias Siva, had allegedly killed his victims using poisoned ‘prasadam’ and medicine, tricking some into believing that he had mystical ‘rice-pulling coins’ that would allow them to double their money. 

Once they succumbed to the poisoning, the alleged serial killer would then steal his victims’ gold and cash. Simhadri, who had fallen into deep debt, thus, collected around Rs 24 lakh in cash and gold worth 35.25 sovereigns from all his victims, between February 2018 and October 2019. 

He was finally arrested on Tuesday morning, after the relatives of his last victim, Kati Nagaraju, grew suspicious. 

The case holds eerie similarities to the sensational case of Jolly Amma Joseph in Kerala, who is accused of killing six members of her family with cyanide. 

Speaking to TNM Navdeep Singh, West Godavari Superintendent of Police, said, "The relatives of Kati Nagaraju became suspicious about the cause of death that took place on October 16. Nagaraju, at the time of his death, was carrying with him Rs 2 lakh cash and gold ornaments weighing 5 sovereigns. But when the body was found, the gold and cash were missing," the officer said.

Nagaraju’s postmortem reports did not detect any traces of cyanide at the time. The police also noted that the 49-year-old victim was a healthy Physical Education teacher and had no prior health ailments as well. However, the fact that the gold and cash went missing made his family suspect foul play.

The family then filed a formal complaint with the Eluru police station and the police began investigating the case. They reviewed the CCTV footage retracing Nagaraju's movements before his death, and Nagaraju was seen conversing with Simhadri. The police said, soon after the conversation, Simhadri began following Nagaraju.

Simhadri was then brought in for questioning by the police. "At first, he only admitted to this one murder but upon examining the call records, we found he was linked to several other deaths. After interrogating him further, he then confessed to committing nine other murders," said the West Godavari Superintendent.

The SP said that Simhadri approached victims saying he would provide them with rice-pulling coins for money, a coin that’s said to have the energy to double one’s wealth despite no scientific backing to the claim. “Once he got the amount from the victim, he would kill them with the cyanide-laced prasadam. The victim would die within a minute or two," added the officer.

Out of the 10 deaths, cases have been filed only in four incidents, while the families of the other six victims considered the deaths to be natural. Simhadri was able to evade suspicion as autopsy reports did not conclude cyanide poisoning as the cause of death. 

Simhadri allegedly procured the cyanide from Ameenullah Babu, the second accused in the case.

Simhadri’s modus operandi

The first alleged murder victim was 63-year old V Umamahewara Rao, who died on February 2018 after he was given prasadam laced with cyanide at a garden at Gopavaram village of Krishna district. Rao was lured in by Simhadri on the pretext of getting a rice pulling coin, police said. Simhadri allegedly stole Rs 4 lakh and one silver ring that was in possession with Rao at the time of his death.

The second victim was 50-year old Pulaparthi Thavitaiah, who was killed in March 2018 on the outskirts of Meerjapuram village, Krishna district. Pulaparthi was also lured in on the pretext of doubling his money, and Simhadri allegedly stole Rs 8 lakh and one silver ring from him.

Simhadri allegedly struck twice more in March 2018. Simhadri had allegedly taken a loan from his third victim, K Bala Venkateshwara Rao. Since the accused could not repay the loan, he allegedly killed the victim and stole Rs 2.9 lakh and one silver ring from him. 

The fourth victim was 55-year-old G Venkata Bhaskar Rao, who also died in March 2018. After giving the victim the prasadam and allegedly killing him, Simhadri stole Rs 1.7 lakh from Venkata. 

33-year old C Suryanarayana was the fifth victim, allegedly killed in April 2018 with cyanide-laced prasadam. Rs 5 lakh and two gold rings were allegedly stolen from him.

The sixth murder victim, Sri Sri Sri Ramakrishnananda, was killed in April 2018. He was given Ayurveda medicine laced with cyanide. Police said Simhadri was unable to steal any valuables on this victim.

For his seventh murder, Simhadri allegedly targeted his grandmother, K Raghavamma, in December 2018 at her home at Rajahmundry. She was allegedly given her diabetes medicine laced with cyanide. Simhadri ran away with her gold ornaments weighing 3 sovereigns.

In January 2018, he allegedly murdered his sister-in-law, 42-year-old S Nagamani, once again, giving her ‘the prasadam’. The accused then stole Rs 5 lakh along with gold chains and ornaments weighing 20 sovereigns, police said. 

In August 2019, he murdered his house owner M Ramulamma, his ninth victim, using the same method. He allegedly stole Rs 1 lakh and gold weighing 5.75 sovereigns.

The 10th alleged murder was of K Nagaraju, someone who was known to him for several years. Nagaraju was allegedly tricked into having the prasadam on the pretext of getting a good rice pulling coin for a low price.

According to the police, the second accused, Ameenullah Babu, knew about the alleged murders. His younger brother Asad owned an Electro Nickle plate unit where cyanide is used for nickle coating and polishing. Asad had a licence to buy the controlled substance from registered vendors in Chennai for industrial use. But Ameenullah procured the cyanide using Asad's credentials and without his knowledge. Ameenullah would allegedly sell the cyanide to Simhadri.

At the time of Simhadri's arrest, the police could only recover a total of Rs 1,63,400 from him and gold ornaments weighing 23 and 1/4 sovereigns. He allegedly used the accumulated wealth to build a house for his family. Police also recovered a plastic tin containing a small quantity of cyanide from both the accused. The duo has been remanded to judicial custody.