The foreign woman from Latvia who was sexually assaulted and killed went missing on March 14. On Thursday, when the police announced the arrest of the two accused, they revealed that what had surprised them the most was the lack of local information.
“It is something we should look at socially. There was no local information at all. It’s unusual in Kerala, especially after we announced a reward for anybody who gives information, it should have come but we were surprised that nothing came. The locals didn’t inform us even after the body started emitting foul smell. This is something we should look at socially,” said Thiruvananthapuram Range IG Manoj Abraham during a media briefing after announcing the arrest.
“She was sexually assaulted, given drugs, taken to the spot and murdered when she resisted. This case is also based on circumstantial evidence. Unlike other cases, in this case, we had nothing to trace the body as it was found in a decomposed state. There were no eyewitnesses, it’s not an open and shut case. Hence, we proceeded with circumstantial and scientific evidence. Initially, it was a blind case, we had no idea if it was a murder or not. Sustained and scientific investigation proved that it was a murder. Based on the further probe, we imposed charges of murder and sections of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. It was a difficult case and we had to recreate the crime scene at the spot. Only after the body was found did we realise that she had been strangulated,” IG Manoj said.
Both DGP Loknath Behera and the IG were tight-lipped on how they zeroed in on the accused. Both stuck to the stand that “This is all we can share now.” The DGP said that sharing more information would affect the investigation, and the case according to them was based on circumstantial evidence.
“The police won’t share the investigation details with the complainant. After the victim’s sister met the DGP, we assigned an officer just to explain things to her family. Now she is satisfied with the probe,” he said.
But a police statement that was given seperately had a few details.
“Both the woman and her sister came to India on February 3. They stayed at Matha Amruthanadnamayi Ashramam at Vallikkav in Kollam for a few days till February 8. After a brief stay at Varkala, another famous tourist spot in the state, they shifted to Dharma Ayurvedic Healing Centre at Pothencode in Thiruvannathapuram. On the day she went missing on March 14, she didn’t attend the Yoga class. All her belongings, passport, mobile phone, dresses etc. were in her room. She didn’t have enough money with her. The manager of the Healing Centre stated that he got information that the woman had taken an autorickshaw to Kovalam,” said a press statement of the police.
“The police then issued a lookout notice, conducted a search at the Kovalam beach, hotels, homestays. Information was collected from autorickshaw and taxi drivers, shopkeepers, fishermen and tourist guides. Members of all the fishermen of Kadolara Jagratha Samithi were alerted. A team of police officers comprising Deputy Commissioner of police Jaidev, Assistant Commissioner of Police G Suresh Kumar and others, was formed to unravel the case. Later, a special investigation team was constituted with Dinil JK Assistant Commisioner, Fort as the investigating officer.
“In the post-mortem report, it was revealed that the death was caused by injury sustained on the neck. DNA finger printing was done on the remnants of the dead body by comparing with the blood sample of the sister. Some drug peddlers, anti-social persons were added to the list of suspected persons. Then the people who have access to the mangroves from where the body was found, were identified. Finally, Umesh and Udayan were arrested. They enticed her, drugged her by giving ganja and then sexually assaulted her. When she resisted, they strangulated her using creepers,” the statement said.
The officers said that the case had provided valuable insights into how security was lacking in tourist places.
“There are no cameras in tourist areas which should also be covered, cameras usually cover the crowded areas. Tourism sector needs much more security is one realisation. There is a dichotomy between tourists’ freedom and policing. Tourists wouldn’t prefer much policing, as they would say they want freedom, which in turn will affect tourism. We need to strike a balance and through proper surveillance only we can do it. We will install cameras in all tourist places. Already the commissioner has held a meeting with hotel and restaurant owners. We will try to cover all the places at Kovalam with cameras and also carry out a drive,” the IG said.
Both the accused, who are history sheeters, were out on bail in the previous cases charged against them. They will be produced before the court on Friday.