Inspector held in Santhakulam case tried all tricks in the book to escape

Tuticorin (TN), July 3

Shifting locations and changing vehicles, Sathankulam Inspector of Police Sridhar played hide-and-seek with CB-CID sleuths for days before being arrested in the sensational case of custodial torture and murder of a father-son duo in this southern district in Tamil Nadu.

In the end, the relentless pursuit and meticulous planning by the specialised Crime Branch-CID personnel, who were helped by local police, outwitted the suspended inspector who had been on the run after sensing that he was in trouble, a police official privy to the probe said.

“He did not have any intention to surrender before authorities though he claimed that it was his idea,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

P Jeyaraj and his son Bennicks, who used to run a mobile phone shop, were allegedly beaten all night with sticks by policemen at the Sathankulam station under Inspector Sridhar’s command. They died the next day in a hospital on June 23, triggering a nation-wide outrage and calls for strong action against the police personnel.

Amid initial charges of cover-up, the CB-CID police took over the probe on Wednesday on the direction of the Madras High Court and arrested Sridhar, two sub-inspectors and a head-constable based on preliminary investigations and slapped murder charges.

Sridhar started shifting his location days ago after it became clear that he would be arrested in the case following his suspension, the official told PTI.

Although the inspector had sent word that he would make himself available to the authorities for questioning, he did not turn up, the official said. He then became evasive and shifted locations often, changing vehicles to travel from one place to another.

 A wireless message, meanwhile, asking police personnel manning district border checkposts to be on guard to spot the accused went viral on the social media.

The photographs of the police personnel were shared with those manning the checkposts, the official said.

Though they could nab the others, several teams of the CB-CID in addition to local police units here and neighbouring districts could not spot Sridhar despite efforts. It later emerged that he had successfully given police the slip in several locations, including Kayathar in this district.

After shuttling between one place to another, Sridhar finally reached neighbouring Tirunelveli on Wednesday with the alleged support of a political personality.

Based on intelligence inputs that he was leaving Tirunelveli in a “specific car,” to an undisclosed location, his vehicle was intercepted early on Thursday at Gangaikondan checkpost on the highway towards Madurai.

“We tracked him, followed his car and managed to detain him at Gangaikondan and he was brought to Tuticorin,” the official added.

Following questioning, Sridhar was arrested and later produced before the Chief Judicial Magistriate court here, which remanded him to judicial custody. Three other policemen have also been remanded to judicial custody.

Meanwhile, a senior CB-CID official scotched speculation that constable Muthuraj, also wanted in the case, has “come forward to be an approver” in the case.

The official told PTI that the claim was not true, adding that efforts were afoot to apprehend him.

“We will arrest Muthuraj soon,” he said.

A petition would be filed in a court here to take all the accused into police custody “in a couple of days,” to take forward the investigation, he said.

Jeyaraj and his son Bennicks were arrested on June 19 for alleged violation of prohibitory orders in force due to COVID-19 lockdown by keeping their mobile phone shop beyond the allowed time.

After being remanded to judicial custody by a magistrate next day, the two were lodged in the Kovilpatti sub-jail.  They were admitted at a government hospital in Kovilpatti by jail authorities on June 22 and died in the space of a few hours.

Their family has alleged that the two were severely beaten up in the police station, which was later coroborated by a woman head constable who told a magisterial probe that the other personnel kept thrashing the father and son throughout  the night.

In the backdrop of outrage against their deaths following alleged police brutality, Chief Minister K Palaniswami had on June 28 announced a CBI probe.

However, pending the central agency taking over the case, the Madras High Court directed the CB-CID to step in, fearing that evidence could be tampered with or removed. PTI


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