Kerala woman ‘disappeared’ 15 years ago. Did husband kill and bury her?

How was the alleged murder of a woman, who was not even reported missing, revealed after 15 years? The police say it was an anonymous letter they received two weeks back that set things in motion.
Kerala woman ‘disappeared’ 15 years ago. Did husband kill and bury her?
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AC Kala was a name long forgotten by the residents of Mannar, a village in Alappuzha district, until the Kerala police arrived at her former husband Anilkumar’s house on Tuesday, July 2, and began to inspect the septic tank. Until then, Kala was for them the 20-year-old woman who had left her husband and infant son to live with her lover in the Gulf in 2009. It was only on Tuesday that people in the neighbourhood became aware that she may in fact have been murdered and buried right next to them. 

While the inspection of the septic tank did lead to the finding of items suspected to be human remains, only a scientific examination can confirm this. The incident has left Mannar in shock, not just because Kala may have been murdered, but also because the accused in the police custody, including Anilkumar himself, are “well-behaved men” from the locality.

TNM visited Mannar on July 3 and spoke to neighbours and relatives of the accused and the victim about the mysterious disappearance and suspected murder of Kala that is said to have taken place 15 years back. 

Kala and Anilkumar had a ‘love marriage’ in 2007 and had a son together. Soon afterwards, Anilkumar moved to South Africa for work. It was when he visited home a while later that Kala’s alleged affair was discovered and she went to live with her family. However Kala’s brother AC Anilkumar told TNM that she left from her natal home also after some time and that he hasn’t  seen her since. 

According to a neighbour, they were told that Kala had left Anilkumar to live with another man who works in the Gulf. “We heard that she went to live with her lover. That is what Anil told neighbours and what Kala’s family also believed till now.” 

However, according to the First Information Report (FIR) registered by the Mannar police, Anilkumar, along with three accomplices, murdered Kala on the Valiya Perumpuzha Bridge in 2009. They transported her body in a car to an unidentified burial location and destroyed evidence. Notably, the FIR does not mention where the body was buried. 

Pramod, Soman and Jinu, the accused in the case
Pramod, Soman and Jinu, the accused in the case

The FIR said the motive of the crime was Anilkumar’s suspicion that she was in an extramarital relationship with another person. 

For 15 years since the alleged murder, Anilkumar lived and worked in Kerala as a contract worker and mason. It was only around three months back that he left for Israel in search of work after facing financial difficulties at home. According to one of his friends, Anilkumar does construction work in Israel too.

Kala’s disappearance

Kala’s family lives merely 2 km away from her former husband Anilkumar’s house. Both her parents passed away a few years back. 

Her brother told TNM, “I do not know if my late father had filed a missing complaint back then, I hadn't. In my eyes, my sister was the woman who left her one-and-a-half-year-old boy and husband who was working hard to earn for the family. So I did not wish to see her. Until yesterday, when the police officials informed me about her apparent death, I believed that she had left with her lover.”

According to Kala’s brother, it was 15 days after Kala left that Anilkumar returned to Kerala. Another 15 days later, he remarried, the brother said. However, one of his neighbours said the remarriage didn't take place then. “Kala left her son at an age when he didn’t know who his mother was. Anilkumar remarried some five or six months after Kala left,” the neighbour said. 

After she left, local residents said there was often talk about her being seen in various places. “I have heard on multiple instances that people saw her in Alappuzha or Ernakulam. So it had never occurred to me that she could’ve been harmed or killed,” her brother added. 

Anilkumar’s neighbours shared a similar belief. “Until some time ago, Kala’s brother himself had told us that she was in Ernakulam. After a while, her family told us that they also didn't know where she was,” a neighbour told TNM. 

AC Anilkumar’s wife and Kala’s sister-in-law, Shobhana Kumari, told the media that she had received two calls from a person claiming to be Kala. “The caller told me that she was living with a man named Sooraj in Palakkad and that there was no need to look for her,” Shobhana said. 

“If she died before that, then who called me,” Sobhana asked, adding that in the belief that Kala would come back one day, she hadn’t even removed Kala’s name from the family’s ration card.

Another neighbour of Anilkumar told TNM that for almost a week now, police have been present in the neighbourhood. However, the residents only came to know about the suspected murder on July 2. 

“We heard that they were inspecting the surroundings of the house, but we had no clue what this was about. On Sunday, June 30, the police took some men in the locality to the station. Even then, we didn't know what was going on. The next day, July 1, they took the men into custody. It was only yesterday, July 2, when I asked the cops who came, that I got to know that this was in connection with Kala’s suspected murder. Now we are hearing many stories through news channels. It is through the news that we got to know what allegedly happened in 2009.” 

Meanwhile, Kala’s son, a teenager, told media persons that his mother has not been killed. “I am being mocked for this at school now. How can I go to school?” he asked.

Mystery unfolding after 15 years 

How was the alleged murder of a woman, who was not even reported missing, revealed after 15 years?

Police say that it was an anonymous letter received by the Alappuzha Superintendent of Police two weeks back that set things in motion. Not only did the letter reportedly describe a brutal murder, but also named the four accused. 

Reports suggested that it was Radhu, the wife of Pramod, one of the accused, who penned the anonymous letter that set off the investigation. Pramod and Radhu had been living separately for a few months allegedly over financial disagreements. 

However, when TNM met with her, she denied this and expressed shock. “I came to know about this through news channels. I lived with him for over 11 years, but I didn’t have any clue about this. This is not a minor crime and it is shocking for me,” she added. 

After a few days of observation, the police arrested Jinu, Pramod, and Soman. Anilkumar was not arrested as he is in Israel. He is yet to be brought back. The men are related to each other and live in the same locality.

The four have been booked under sections 302 (murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of an offence or giving false information to screen the offender), and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). 

On Tuesday, July 2, the police, with the help of Thiruvalla-native Soman, inspected the septic tank at the house of Anilkumar. Soman has assisted the police in recovering bodies in several murder cases. 

Objects suspected to be the remains of a human body were found from the septic tank during the inspection that started at 2 pm and went on till 6.30 pm on Tuesday. 

Soman told TNM that items such as elastic used in underwear, a locket, a hair slide, and other objects resembling human remains were found from the septic tank. “I have collected as many samples as I could. Some chemical was used to dissolve the contents of the tank, so most of it was powdered,” he said. 

A police source told TNM that it is not possible to conclusively state that the items found from the septic tank are human remains, given that it has been 15 years since the incident allegedly took place. Soman also clarified that the remains unearthed looked like bones and other human parts, but only a forensic analysis can confirm what they are.

Insufficient evidence?

TNM spoke to SK Adityan, a criminal lawyer practising in Ernakulam, about the case. According to him, custodial confession is not enough to secure a conviction. “Recovery of the body is required, as material evidence is important in court. In case the body is not recovered, there should at least be a direct witness to the incident,” he said. 

However, if the accused repeats the same confession that they gave to the police in front of the magistrate, it can be considered as evidence under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 164 (Magistrate to record statement of a person or his confession). “This confession has more validity and can be used against the accused,” Adityan said. 

‘Police may have forced confession’

TNM spoke with the family members of the accused, who said they were all in shock and didn't know about the alleged murder until the arrests. 

One of the accused Jinu, a contract worker aged 40, is Anilkumar’s cousin. His mother told TNM that even though she had heard of Kala, she had never seen her. 

Pramod’s mother also told TNM that they didn't know anything about the case. “When the police asked Anilkumar’s father who his friends were, my son was also named. But he did not actually have any role in it. The police might have forced a confession out of Pramod, but that is not the truth. I do not know what the truth is. His father and I are in agony now,” his mother said. 

Kala’s brother said, “When the police told me that they murdered my sister, I could not believe it for a few minutes, as I personally knew all the accused. All of them were seemingly good men. Even after Kala left, I had stayed in touch with Anilkumar. I don’t know how they could behave like nothing had happened. They should be punished.” 

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