On October 13, a visibly shaken police officer from Kerala reached the Parappana Agrahara police station in South East Bengaluru. The officer, identified as Abhilash, had come to file a missing persons complaint. His 21-year old niece Srilakshmi, who had moved to Bengaluru 6 months ago to work in an IT major, had gone missing. A colleague of hers named Abhijith Mohan too had gone missing.
A native of Mala in Thrissur, Srilakshmi last contacted her relatives on October 10. Since then, her phone was switched off and her whereabouts unknown to her family.
According to the family, the officers at the Parappana Agrahara station seemed least interested in the case. Infact, the Circle Inspector at the police station barely asked them any questions about the missing persons, they allege.
“It took the police all afternoon to even lodge an FIR. The FIR copy that they gave us had no crime number and no date. The CI of the station made us wait for hours and finally arrived at the station in the afternoon. He was on his phone throughout and did not ask us any queries regarding the complaint,” recalls Sethumon, Srilakshmi’s uncle who had accompanied Abhilash to the police station.
For the next 40 days, Abhilash, Sethumon and their relatives from Kerala combed through all possible locations to track down Srilakshmi and her colleague. They were unsuccessful in their attempts.
On November 26th - 40 days later - a local landlord from the Chinthala Madiwala area, 23 kms away away from Bengaluru discovered two highly decomposed bodies in a desolate area, lying near bushes.
They were later identified to be that of the missing duo.
Distress calls, SOS texts
At 5:30 pm on October 10, Srilakshmi rang up her uncle Sethumon with a request. That was the last time he heard from her, Sethumon recalls.
“She wanted me to identify a good psychiatrist for her friend. She said that he had been going through some issues and needed a Malayali doctor that he could be comfortable in speaking to. Since then her phone was switched off,” he says.
On October 12, a day after they went missing, two of Srilakshmi’s and Abhijith’s friends received distress texts from the duo, urgently asking to be rescued.
TNM accessed a screenshot of the messages sent by Srilakshmi and Abhijith to one of the friends.
As per this screenshot, a live location of the couple was shared with the friend. And the 4 accompanying text messages, supposedly typed by Abhijith, read “somebody please come and rescue us immediately. It is urgent.”
“Their friends had gone to rescue the two of them, but returned after the two of them refused to come out of the thick forest. The friends say they returned as they were spooked,” Sethumon says.
On October 13, the Parappana Agrahara police was given all the details of the missing duo along with the complaint by Srilakshmi’s uncles. These details included the live location that the couple shared with the two friends who attempted to rescue them.
On November 26 - the bodies of the two were found hanging in a forested area in Chinthala Madiwala, barley 500 mts away from the exact live location the duo had shared with their friends.
Not only did the police not act on time to save the missing persons, they had even failed to track down the corpses for over one month, alleges Sethumon.
“Why did the police not look for them? Their dead bodies were discovered from a spot close to this location shared on the map,” Sethumon says.
No action on Habeas Corpus
On October 18, Srilakshmi’s uncles filed a Habeas Corpus petition at the Karnataka High Court to track their niece down. However, this too yielded zero results, as they allege that the police officers at Parappana Agrahara were lukewarm at best in their search.
“The CI in the Parappana Agrahara station never rang us up even once. Not even after we filed the Habeas Corpus. Had they once properly searched the live location sent by my niece properly, they would have found the bodies way earlier,” says Sethumon.
Following the discovery of their bodies, several media houses reported that Srilakshmi had contacted her family on November 23, three days before her remains were found. The reports also stated that the duo had killed themselves as their families had opposed to their marriage over caste differences.
The first claim has been proven false as the Deputy Commissioner of Anekal confirmed to TNM that based on forensic reports, the bodies are at least a month old. Therefore, Srilakshmi could not have sent a message on November 23.
The family denies that they had opposed the ‘relationship’. “We did not know of his existence. How and why should we oppose anything then? Moreover, we now know that both are of the same caste, and so the media reports that we were against inter caste wedding is planted by Bengaluru police,” says Sethumon.
“Both of them are Nairs, so there is no caste issue here. It is entirely fabricated. I suspect that it is the police who have cooked up stories that Srilakshmi had contacted us on November 23. We strongly believe that the police are writing their own narrative in this case to hide their criminal neglect of duty,” Sethumon further alleged.
An unnatural death case now been registered in the Hebbagodi police station, which has jurisdiction over Chinthala Madiwala - the area from where the bodies were recovered.
TNM contacted Bengaluru South East DCP Isha Pant for a comment. She added that Chinthala Madiwala, where the bodies of the deceased were found, came under the the Hebbagodi police station limits, which was not under her jurisdiction.
TNM also contacted SP Ravi D Channannavar of Bengaluru Rural Zone who stated that the missing complaint was filed in the Parappana Agrahara police station, which came under the jurisdiction of the Bengaluru Rural SP Isha Pant.