‘Police thrashed them’: Lawyer of TN father-son who died in custody speaks out

The family of the duo contested police's claims that the two suffered from serious health ailments.
Jayaraj and his son Bennix died under police custody
Jayaraj and his son Bennix died under police custody
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As the death of 58-year-old Jayaraj and his 31-year-old son Bennix while in police custody continues to make waves, the two men’s relatives have now stated that the duo did not have any serious health conditions as claimed by police officers. The lawyer and friend of Bennix also alleges that the two were thrashed by police.

Speaking to TNM from Thoothukudi, Vinoth, Jayaraj son-in-law, said that barring Jayaraj’s diabetes and Bennix’s recent kidney stone problem, the duo were in good health. “The two men have been running their shops for over 10 years in Sathankulam and have an impeccable record of conduct. There is no way they would have done anything unlawful,” he said.

Jayaraj and Bennix ran a woodwork shop and a mobile shop in Sathankulam. The two were arrested on June 19 due to allegations that they had violated lockdown timings. Bennix died on June 22 after he reportedly complained of chest pain, fainted and was rushed to the hospital. His father died the next day, in the early hours of June 23 after his health deteriorated. The death of the father and son while in police custody sparked protests in Sathankulam, where the shop owners downed their shutters to protest against alleged police brutality. 

Raja, Bennix’s friend and a lawyer, recalled the events that transpired from June 18 onwards, the day before police picked up 58-year-old Jayaraj and 31-year-old Bennix for ‘inquiry’. On June 18, police had told shop owners not to exceed the time limit set by the district authorities. “In that crowd, someone else said something rude about the police, which somehow reached the police as if Jayaraj had made the remark. The next day, around 7.50 pm, Bennix and I were sitting and chatting in his mobile shop when one of our common friends told us that the police had picked Jayaraj up and taken him away to the station. I told Bennix to rush to the station while I went to my house to change my clothes and go to the police station,” he said. 

However, when Bennix reached the station, he was allegedly not allowed inside to meet his father. After Bennix stood outside the station for a while, he was called in by a sub-inspector who thrashed them both, Raja alleged. After the arrest on June 19, the two were taken to Kovilpatti sub-jail, over 100 km away. 

“The next thing we knew is that both of them were taken to a hospital in Kovilpatti before they were remanded on Saturday morning. We still don’t know the details of what happened on Friday night,” he pointed out. 

Bennix has three elder sisters, all of whom are settled outside of Sathankulam. An MSW graduate, Bennix ran a mobile phone shop in Sathankulam, while his father Jayaraj is a second-generation wood carver. Jayaraj and Bennix’s autopsies are expected to take place on Wednesday after Jayaraj’s eldest daughter reaches Sathankulam from Vijayawada. 

“We are waiting for the eldest daughter to come so that we can sign the papers authorising the post-mortem as ordered by the High Court. She has to come from Vijayawada and she doesn’t know that her father has also died. We have told her only about her brother’s death,” Vinoth added. 

Meanwhile, commercial establishments across Tamil Nadu have called for a day-long shutdown on Wednesday as a mark of protest against the alleged police brutality.

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