There was a crowd of people, most of them pointing to a large pit and discussing the hectic activities in the last two days. As others kept trickling in steadily, the newcomers were told the story about how the villagers had discovered the bodies of a four member family in Kattakambayam in Kerala's Idukki district.
The bodies of Kanat Krishnan (52), his wife Susheela (50), their daughter Arsha (21), and son Arjun (18) were found on Wednesday, stacked inside a pit dug in the backyard of their house. The house located inside a rubber plantation, is somewhat isolated, with the nearest house too lying vacant.
On Wednesday afternoon, Jacob Kurien, a staff of the Jalanidhi project had come to Krishnan's house for taking down the monthly water usage consumption. Usually, he would come on the 30th of every month, but the rains had delayed his trip to Krishnan's estate.
(Jacob Kurien and Sasankan)
On Tuesday, Jacob found no one at home. "Usually even if Krishnan was not there, his wife or children would be present. This time I didnt see anyone, I left assuming that they might have gone out. But then when I went to other houses, the family who sells milk said no one from Krishnan's family had come for more than two days to collect milk."
The next day morning, Jacob, a few people from the neighborhood and Krishnan's brothers went to the house to enquire again.
(Bindu and Rejimon)
"When we came on Wednesday morning, we found red stains in the back portion of the house. I touched it and realised that it was human blood. Then we just pushed the front door and it opened. The sight was scary. There were puddles of blood perhaps mixed with water in the rooms," Jacob tells TNM.
Jacob believes that whoever was behind the murder, must have tried to wash off the pools of blood, but in vain.
"We started searching the grounds vigorously. I saw freshly dug mud and became suspicious. We dug a bit and saw a leg. Frightened, we informed the police", he recalled.
(Pit where bodies were found)
As the news spread, people began to gather and soon there was a huge crowd says Jacob. When the police started digging, they first brought out young Arjun's body. Stacked beneath him was the body of his sister and then their mother.
As these three bodies were taken out first, most people watching thought that Krishnan who was known to practise black magic had murdered his family for a ritual. The biggest shock came next.
(Villagers searching for bodies)
"Till the police team found Krishnan's body most people here were of the impression that Krishnan had killed his wife and children for something related to black magic. The most frightening moment was when his body was also found," says Jacob.
The bodies had been bludgeoned and each one of them had severe injury marks, Krishnan's face was completely disfigured.
With their families, friends and neighbours telling police that Krishnan was a black magic practitioner, who had visitors even at the dead of night, the police are investigating if a disgruntled client was behind the murders. The families of both Krishnan and Susheela too are being questioned.
Police sources say that Arsha had used her mobile phone till almost 11 pm on Sunday night.
After post mortem at the Kottayam Medical College, the funeral was held on Thursday evening. Though the couple's families were present during the solemn occasion, they all maintained that they had never been close to Krishnan and his wife and were unaware if they had been in any financial trouble.
Krishanan is one among ten siblings in his family. He has five brothers and four sisters.
On Tuesday, three of Krishnan's brothers who lived in the same locality, Sasankan, Vijayan and Yanjeswaran, had searched the house premises with Jacob and others.
Sasankan claims that though they lived in the same locality, none of the other brothers had close ties with Krishnan and his family. "There was no hate, nor was there love. We used to meet him and his family members when they stepped out of their house to go somewhere. It was from the neighbours that we also first heard that he was practicing black magic. There were blood stains on the ceiling. It's not easy to kill a person like Krishnan, he was tall and had a good physique. There were injuries on all the bodies," says Sasankan, Krishnan's younger brother.
"We didn't think that they were in any financial crisis. Both Krishnan and his wife used to wear gold ornaments whenever they came out. Arjun was an introvert, Arsha was a brilliant student. Krishnan shifted to this house in 1996 or 1997 when he got married. Till then he had nothing to do with black magic. He had studied till sixth standard," Sasankan says.
Susheela was a native of Rajakkad in Idukki. Even her siblings claim they weren't close. Her younger sister Bindhu who had come with her husband Rejimon for the funeral said, "We had spoken on the phone two weeks ago, visits to each others places was rare. They would come to my place maybe once in a year."
Rejimon echoed Sasankan and Bindhu's words. "They never shared anything with us. We don't know if they had financial problems," Rejimon says.
The family is in deep shock, though most of them had heard rumours of black magic, such a gruesome end was something they had never imagined.
Pankajakshan, husband of Susheela's sister Omana says, "A few months ago, my wife had stayed with them for two days. There were not occasional visits or phone calls, but there was no rift between us. From the rare visits we made we had assumed that he used to practice black magic. The news of their death was indeed shocking, we haven't even heard of such things here."
Arsha's teachers and friends told the media that she kept to herself and had been crying in class on Thursday. But like most others in the neighborhood, her classmates too say they were unaware of any issues the family faced.
People kept pointing to the windows to prove their point that the family lead a very private life. All the windows were sealed shut.
"See the windows, there is not even a small hole, even for air to pass. We have heard people used to come even from Malappuram in search of him, but we don't have any evidence to prove that. But these windows show they kept everyone away," Jacob says.
As theories about the murders spread, it's a tough task ahead for the Kerala police.
The police are also looking into the possibility of the murder being committed in relation to property disputes within the family.
And with neighbours revealing that Krishnan used to have people visiting him at night, and mostly in cars, CCTV cameras on the state highway will become crucial evidence the police hope.