Uthara’s murder has been described as a ‘brutal and rare case’. Vismaya’s death sparked outrage over dowry and domestic violence. And Kerala HC named a suo motu PIL in memory of a dog that was beaten to death.

A collage of Uthara-Sooraj, Vismaya-Kiran, Bruno with one of its owners, and victims of Koodathayi murders.
news Crime Thursday, July 08, 2021 - 13:49

In recent years, Kerala has witnessed a series of brutal and distressing killings that shook the entire state, and reverberated across the nation. From violent crimes committed against children and women, to the savage killing of a dog, these deaths have sparked outrage, collective mourning and debate among the public.

[Content warning: This story contains details of extreme violence.]

Brutal, rare murder of Uthara using snakes

The investigating police officials described 25-year-old Uthara’s death as “a brutal and rare murder”. She was found dead in her parents’ house in Kollam district on May 7, 2020. Uthara’s husband Sooraj killed his wife, using the venomous Indian cobra. He bought the cobra from a snake catcher for Rs 10,000, planted the snake in their room, watched as the snake bit Uthara and even laid down next to her as she was slowly dying.

Previously, in his first, failed attempt, Sooraj used a viper to try to kill Uthara. The incident left her confined to bed for 52 days, unable to walk, and she had to undergo plastic surgery as well. In a complaint, Uthara’s parents said that Sooraj used to harass her about dowry and even removed her gold from the bank locker.

Read: Uthra's murder in Kerala yet again shows why divorce is better than giving in to dowry

Vismaya, one more victim of domestic violence

Vismaya Nair was found dead in the early hours of June 21, 2021 at her husband Kiran’s family home in Kollam district. Just two days prior to her death, she had sent messages to her cousin, informing him that her husband brutally assaulted her, allegedly pulled her hair and stamped on her face, all this over a car that had been given to him as dowry. She even shared images of the injuries. While Kiran’s family are claiming she died by suicide, her family alleges murder. Kiran, who was arrested in the case, admitted to assaulting her in the past. Her death shook the entire state. While the investigation is still underway, Vismaya’s death has touched off a series of debates on domestic violence, government initiation and amplified the voices demanding an end to the illegal practice of demanding and giving dowry.

Also Read: 

'Malayogam' to 'Kettyolanante Malakha': Dowry and domestic violence in Malayalam cinema

Once confined to some communities, dowry is now all pervasive in Kerala

When a woman is nothing if not a wife: Vismaya's death points to our shared guilt

A facade of mourning after killing 6-year-old

Twenty-two-year-old Arjun was among those who mourned the death of a six-year-old girl at her funeral in Idukki district a few days ago. He even helped the family in conducting the funeral. It later surfaced that the perpetrator of the crime was among them– it was Arjun, a Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) worker of the Vetturoad unit. According to the police, Arjun had been sexually assaulting the child since she was three years old, when her parents, who worked as plantation workers, were away at work. On the day of the murder on June 30, he sexually assaulted and strangled her to death. The entire neighbourhood was so outraged that when Arjun was brought to the girl’s house for evidence collection, the officials had to move his family away to another location.

Read: Rape and murder of 6-yr-old in Kerala has eerie similarities to Hasini murder in Chennai

A crime connecting three women, a newborn

Two young women — 23-year-old Arya and 19-year old-Greeshma — in Kollam district, went missing on June 24. The next day, their dead bodies were found in a river. It was a death by suicide, although it was not clear why.

Both Greeshma and Arya were friends and relatives of 22-year old Reshma, who was arrested on June 22 in connection with the death of her newborn child. The baby was found abandoned on a heap of dry leaves on January 5 in the compound of Reshma’s paternal house. The infant died later. Reshma managed to hide her pregnancy and the delivery. According to the investigation team, Reshma used to chat with a man named Ananthu on Facebook. Reshma allegedly wanted to live with Ananthu and abandon her second child with her husband, Vishnu. It would later come to light that Arya and Greeshma were running the fake Facebook account pretending to be Ananthu, and chatting with Reshma for fun. In the suicide note, they had written that they didn't want to go to jail for the death of an infant.

Read: An abandoned newborn and the death of two women, a crime saga that has shocked Kerala

A hapless dog was brutally killed

The seven-year-old dog, Bruno, was described by his owner as a calm and quiet animal. On June 28, as usual, Bruno went to the Vizhinjam beach in Thiruvananthapuram to play. He lay down near a boat for some time when three men started attacking the dog. The three accused, who allegedly harboured some grudge against Bruno’s owner, decided to punish the dog. They tied the dog to a fishing hook in a boat, beat him with a stick and later threw Bruno into the sea. One of the accused even recorded the crime on camera, the video later went viral. Many took to social media to protest against the heinous crime. In a rare move, the Kerala High Court registered a suo motu Public Interest Litigation (PIL) — named it "In Re: Bruno" — to monitor state action in reported instances of animal cruelty and in matters of preventing such acts.

The Koodathai serial murders

In October 2019, the Kerala police exhumed the bodies of six members of the Koodathai family in Kozhikode. A relative of the family raised suspicion that the members, who were considered to have died of natural or tragic deaths, could have been murdered. As Jolly Amma Joseph, a member of the same family, was eventually named an accused in the case, details of the gruesome murders surfaced. In all the six deaths, including a two-year-old child and her husband, the common link was cyanide and dog poison that Jolly allegedly mixed in the food that her victims consumed. Investigations also revealed that Jolly faked having a job for 14 years, without raising any suspicion.

Seven-year-old’s death at hands of mother’s partner

A seven-year-old boy from Thodupuzha in Idukki district suffered a series of grievous injuries after his mother’s live-in partner, Arun, assaulted him on March 29, 2020. According to the victim's younger sibling, Arun regularly assaulted them. On the day of the crime, the man hit the seven-year-old’s arms and eyes; dragged him on the floor by his legs; banged his head on the floor; and squeezed his head on a cupboard. The boy was physically battered with a fracture in the skull, ruptured lungs and head injury with internal bleeding. After battling for his life in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for nine days, the young boy died. The boy’s mother, who had maintained that her son was injured in an accident, was also arrested. CCTV footage from a hospital revealed the couple’s reluctance in taking the seven-year-old to another hospital for further treatment.

If you are aware of anyone facing mental health issues or feeling suicidal, please provide help. Here are some helpline numbers of suicide-prevention organisations that can offer emotional support to individuals and families.   

Kerala
Maithri: 0484 2540530
Chaithram: 0484 2361161
Both are 24-hour helpline numbers.

Tamil Nadu
State health department's suicide helpline: 104
Sneha Suicide Prevention Centre - 044-24640050 (listed as the sole suicide prevention helpline in Tamil Nadu)

Andhra Pradesh
Life Suicide Prevention: 78930 78930
Roshni: 9166202000, 9127848584

Karnataka
Sahai (24-hour): 080 65000111, 080 65000222

Telangana
State government's suicide prevention (tollfree): 104
Roshni: 040 66202000, 6620200
SEVA: 09441778290, 040 27504682 (between 9 am and 7 pm)

Aasara offers support to individuals and families during an emotional crisis, for those dealing with mental health issues and suicidal ideation, and to those undergoing trauma after the suicide of a loved one.   
24x7 Helpline: 9820466726
Click here for working helplines across India.

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