How Chennai police solved a high-profile double murder, nabbed accused in hours
The May 7 double murder of a well-to-do couple in the heart of Chennai was a straight forward case to solve but it was the speed in which police caught the two accused before they could flee to Nepal is how the crime received its closure in a matter of hours.
The victims and the main accused, Lal Krishna, had known each other for more than a decade as employer and driver-cum-domestic help. A police official involved in the investigation described them as “filthy rich” and their death as gruesomely motivated by obtaining crores of cash which never existed.
The two accused, who according to police, do not have a criminal history, left a trail of evidence in the victims’ home in Chennai’s Mylapore where they were murdered and they were buried in their farmhouse Nemilicheri on the East Coast Road.
Chartered accountant Srikanth (60) has been a director and vice president of several companies and was currently the head of corporate finance of a Gujarat-based firm. He lived in a posh duplex with his wife Sunantha (55) in Mylapore.
In November last year, the couple had gone to the US to visit their children. Srikanth alone came back to Chennai in March, police said.
Krishna as always was driving Srikanth in a silver Innova car in the city when he heard him discussing a ₹40 crore property deal, police said, a reason for plotting the crime. Krishna roped in one of his friends, P Ravi, to share the spoils. Srikanth had gone back to the US in the same month and the duo were waiting for them to return.
“On May 4, Srikanth called Krishna and informed him to pick them from the Chennai airport on May 7. Within those three days they started preparing for the murder,” said a senior police official not wishing to be named.
From California, the couple had landed in Chennai around 3.30 am on May 7. Sridhar called his son, Shashant, from the airport and informed him that Krishna had picked them up. At 8 am Indian time, Shashant called but his mother and father’s phones were switched off. So, he called Krishna. First Krishnan told him that his parents were sleeping at home and that he was out to buy vegetables for them.
Police said when Shashant called again at 10 am Krishna’s responses started becoming inconsistent. Shashant began to suspect something was amiss so he asked his relatives in Indira Nagar in Adyar to check on his parents. The relatives went to Mylapore and saw the house locked and the Innova car missing. They called 100 helpline after 11am, police said.
When police broke into the locked house, all the bureaus were open. Their suitcases were strewn around. That’s when investigations at the crime scene began.
Police found faint blood stains inside a utility room on the ground floor and on the drain holes inside a toilet on the first floor. There were no bodies. “These were tell-tale signs that they have been badly injured and another obvious sign was that bedsheets were missing from all the beds,” the official said, adding that 9 kg of gold and about 60 kg of silver were stolen.
“They had used the sheets to either wrap the stolen jewellery or wrap murdered bodies.” Later police would find out that the injuries were so severe, that they dragged Sunantha to the bathroom to wash away the incessantly flowing blood.
“Initially, we thought it was a case of abduction,” the official quoted above said. Police proceeded to the farmhouse in the outskirts of the city where they could easily spot only one portion of the ground where sand had been removed and covered freshly. Next to that one pair of gloves and a burnt cell phone was found. Clothes used to clean the blood were half burnt. The duo had dug the pits already and kept it ready before the couple arrived from the US to bury them. “When we saw this, we confirmed that definitely a murder has been committed,” additional commissioner of police (south) N Kannan said at a press conference on Monday.
But police hadn’t seen the bodies because they had to wait for permission from the revenue department to exhume the bodies. Their priority at that stage was to catch the accused before they escaped too far.
“The accused knew their crime would be solved but they didn’t anticipate we would catch them so soon. They thought they had less than 8-hour of time to reach Hyderabad, leave the car there and their plan was to take the train to Gorakhpur where there are taxis to go to the Nepal border. The murder happened early morning. We got a grip of the case around 1pm and we caught them by 5.30pm from Andhra Pradesh,” the official said.
Police accessed data from Krishna’s phone though it was switched off. Their first clue was a message from a FASTag toll booth at Chennai’s Uthani which connects ECR to the city. Police wouldn’t say how but said they were able to map the route they were taking to Andhra and the speed in which they drove the Innova car. “They used the same car, that’s how naive they are.” Chennai police then informed their Andhra Pradesh counterparts and the accused were caught in Ongole on the highway.
Why did they risk murdering the couple when they could have just broken into the house especially because Krishna was given a room to stay behind the house and he had the keys to the car. “This is the first question that came to our mind. We didn’t know the reason until we caught the accused. He didn’t care about the jewellery. His aim was ₹40 crore. He’s asked for ₹40 crore and then murdered him. He knew he couldn’t leave a rich, influential man alive, else Srikanth would have ensured he was caught.”
Lal Krishna’s father, Padam Lal, 65 , is the security guard of the farm house. Every year, he goes on leave for 15 days to go back to his native country of Nepal. He was on leave during this time so his son and the main accused, Krishan, had the keys to the farmhouse. “The accused wanted money and they used this opportunity,” police said. Both of them speak Tamil fluently. Krishna was an on-call driver, separated from his wife while his son 15 studies in Darjeeling. “He believed he could have settled with this ₹40 crore in Darjeeling.”
On Monday, a preliminary post mortem report stated the cause of death as excessive blood loss due to injuries to the head and stabbing to the side of the neck. They used a wooden log to beat them on their head.
“And a traditional Nepali knife (kukri) to slit the side of their neck. Both of them had similar injuries,” the official said. The couple’s children, who are shocked that people whom they trusted murdered their parents, reached Chennai on Monday night to complete the last rites.