More than a week after the cold-blooded murder of senior journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh at her residence, the Bengaluru police appear to have made a breakthrough.
The Special Investigation Team are set to grill rowdy sheeter Kunigal Giri and his six associates for their alleged role in the case.
He is presently in judicial custody and is lodged at the Ballari Central Jail since his arrest three years ago.
According to police sources, a member of the SIT has already questioned Giri suspecting that he is aware of the specifics of the incident.
Police are also trying to ascertain if there is a connection with the high number of illegal weapons dumped in northern Karnataka which reportedly came from Bihar. It is suspected that the gun used to shoot Gauri was part of this cache.
Police sources have also told TNM that the shooter involved in Gauri’s murder was not a professional or was not accustomed to the weapon, based on the post-mortem report.
With comparisons being drawn to the murder of noted rationalist MM Kalburgi, the senior officer told TNM the killers in the 2015 crime were professionals. However, the ballistic report of Gauri’s killing is still awaited.
Earlier on Thursday, sources in the SIT told TNM that the suspect was hanging around Gauri’s home for the better part of the day.
The CCTV footage near Gauri’s home shows that the man, suspected to be the killer, scouted Gauri’s house at least twice before the actual murder took place around 8pm on September 5. However, as the man was wearing a helmet at all times, the SIT is finding it difficult to identify him.
Police have so far questioned, 100 people from Mangaluru, Chikkamangaluru, Bengaluru and Sringeri.
Who is Kunigal Giri?
The rowdy sheeter also known as “Boss” in criminal circles, was arrested in Anantapur in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh in May 2014 under dramatic circumstances in a coordinated operation by the Karnataka and Andhra Police. He was born at Kunigal taluk in Tumkur district.
After coming to know of that the police were after him, Giri had tried to flee on a bike but in the process hit a truck and injured himself.
At the time of his arrest, he was named as a suspect in more than 100 criminal cases which included kidnapping, extortion, robbery, dacoity, intimidation.
It was suspected that the gang led by Giri was tasked with the supari killing of one prominent politician of undivided Andhra Pradesh. According to multiple reports, this was AIMIM leader Akbaruddin Owaisi, brother of Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi.
His other aliases include Girish, Modur Giri, Prashanth Raja and Ashwatha.
He had first courted arrest in 2005. Bengaluru police had arrested him for chain-snatching incidents in Malleswaram and later again in 2008.
By his own admission, Giri seeks fame through his criminal activity and says that he will turn a social activist after making it to international headlines.
"People across the country should talk about me. The Prime Minister and President should talk about my criminal activities and only then I shall retire from the underworld, before turning into a full-time social activist," he reportedly wrote in his diary.
He was also involved in a major prison fight with fellow prisoner, an undertrial after which he had to receive treatment at Victoria Hospital.