21-year-old Amrutha and Pranay had married in January this year against the wishes of her parents, but she was in constant touch with her mother, ever since she got pregnant.
Amrutha would tell her mother about how she was doing and the mother too would advise her to take good rest and eat timely meals. The mother, equally happy to get frequent updates, would pass on the same information to Amrutha's father, Maruthi Rao. But unknown to them, Maruthi Rao had been plotting Pranay's murder for months and used the information from the phone calls to trace Pranay's whereabouts.
The last fateful call was on September 13, a day before Pranay's murder and the eve of Vinayaka Chaturthi, when Amrutha informed her mother that she and Pranay were going to Jyothi hospital for a regular check-up. Amrutha's mother passed on the same information to Maruthi Rao.
It was in this manner, that the date and location of the murder was set and months of planning culminated in a cold-blooded killing in broad daylight.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Nalgonda Superintendent of Police AV Ranganath detailed the conspiracy behind the crime. Multiple meetings between the five main accused at various places in the state, fake sim cards, an advance of Rs 16 lakh and a deal for Rs 1 crore, was all that led to the death of Pranay.
In the FIR registered by Miryalaguda police, Maruthi Rao was named as Accused No 1, while the killer, Subash Sharma, was named as Accused No 2.
The police said that Accused No 3, Asgar Ali - was an accused in earlier cases, as he was convicted by a court earlier in the murder case of former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya, but was later acquitted.
"Accused No 4 Mohammed Bari, a native of Nalgonda and a resident of Malakpet in Hyderabad, knew Amrutha's father Maruthi Rao since 2011 ever since he took his help in settling a land dispute," Ranganath said.
The police said that Bari and Sharma had met in Rajahmundry while they were both serving time in prison for different crimes.
Accused No 5, Abdul Kareem, is a Transport Operator in Miryalguda, while Accused No 6 was Sravan, Maruthi's relative. Maruthi Rao's driver, Shiva,was named Accused No 7.
The police said that while Sravan and Shiva knew of the crime being hatched, it was the other five, who were the main accused.
"The murder plot began in June-July, when Bari and Maruthi Rao got into contact into each other and began talking over the phone. In the first week of July, Karim came into the picture and the plan to kill Pranay was hatched. The same was communicated to Bari and Asgar," Ranganath said.
The police said that Karim, Asgar and Bari later met frequently in Hyderabad and Nalgonda, to work out the execution of the plan.
"In the first week of July, Asgar and Bari met in Nalgonda's Auto Nagar and later met Karim and Maruthi Rao. They sat in a car and spoke and began setting an amount for the murder. The demand was first for Rs 2.5 crore but they later settled for Rs 1 crore. While the killers asked for an advance of Rs 50 lakh, they settled on Rs 16 lakh. The same day, they left in the car and showed Pranay's house to Bari and Asgar," Ranganath said.
The next important meeting was on July 9, when Karim took 16 lakh from Maruthi and left for Hyderabad from Miryalguda. The money was handed over to the others in a car near Ramoji Film City, the police said.
Maruthi Rao was then informed that the advance had been received. Bari took Rs 8 lakh, while Asgar took Rs 6 lakh and Rs 1 lakh was taken by Karim from the advance, the police added.
Planning and execution
It was after the advance was given that the planning began. The police said that Bari bought a two-wheeler with a fake number plate and documents and three sim cards using bogus names, while Asgar bought three phones.
"The first attempt to murder Pranay actually took place on August 14. They tried to corner the couple near a beauty parlour and thought they will kill Pranay over there. However, since another relative was present, they didn't understand which one of them was Pranay, and so they called it off. Bari, Asgar and Subash Sharma was there that day," Ranganath said.
Another crucial date according to the police was August 17, when the couple decided to hold a wedding reception.
"This had hurt Maruthi even more as it would become public that his daughter had done an inter-caste marriage and the entire town would know. So, he speeded up the process. Between August 16 to 23, he got admitted to a hospital in Hyderabad for an operation because he wanted to stay away from Miryalaguda," Ranganath added.
In the first week of September, the police said that another plan was hatched to kidnap Amrutha and kill Pranay. Four people were hired from Hyderabad but seeing that they were alcoholics, Asgar called off the plan because they were 'not serious', the police said.
On September 13, after the phone call between Amrutha and her mother, the police said that Maruthi informed Bari about the hospital visit, who in turn informed Asgar, who planned the crime with Subash.
On September 14, Asgar travelled in an auto and met Subash at one point, following which the duo travelled together and followed the couple in a car.
Asgar stayed a little distance away from the spot, giving directions to Subash, who then executed the murder.
The police said that Maruthi had left to Nalgonda two hours before the murder, to create an alibi at the Joint Collectorate in the town.
"Near Vemulapally, he stopped his car and simply tried to strike up an unnecessary conversation with some officials at the government office, to show that he was not present at the murder spot. However, it did not work out for him," the police Superintendent said.
The police also said that Bari was not in Miryalaguda on the day of murder and he left for the outskirts of Hyderabad. After receiving Asgar's call that the job was done, he conveyed the same to Maruthi Rao.
Asgar was also set to receive the rest of the money after this.
After committing the crime, the police said that Subash even changed his shirt when he crossed the Miryalaguda flyover bypass and took a different route from the one they had taken to arrive at the hospital.
"They used a different escape route through Nagarjunsagar road to Nalgonda, before they abandoned the car at a government hospital. Subash then left to Bengaluru from where he took a bus to Patna. All this is corroborated with various agencies and we could successfully crack the case soon and catch all the accused," Ranganath told the media.
"The original plan was for Maruthi Rao to surrender, along with Subash, so that the other three accused would slowly dissociate themselves from the crime. However, as their names started getting flashed on TV, they got worried and switched off their phones. Despite all this, we managed to nab all of them from different places over the course of four days with the help of CCTV footage and technical evidence," he added.
The police also said that Maruthi Rao would only be in contact with Bari and Kareem would facilitate the conversation, ensuring that there was no direct contact with Asgar and Subash.
The accused have been booked under sections 302 (Murder), 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention), 120b (Party to a criminal conspiracy) read with 109 (Abetment) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and Section 3(2)(v) of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
"Maruthi's pride was hurt because an inter-caste marriage took place, so SC/ST Act will apply here. I also don't agree with the term 'honour killing' as some activists have rightly pointed out. Honour from caste is not right. You can't see honour in this. In fact, he (Maruthi) has lost his honour now and that's how we should see it," Ranganath concluded.
With inputs from Charan Teja