Thrissur: A local court here is set to pronounce on Tuesday its verdict on the 2016 murder of a four-year-old girl, Meba, at Pazhayi near Pudukkad in Kerala's Thrissur district. The police had arrested Shylaja, the child's close relative, over the murder.
Vengeance harboured by the accused against the girl's parents prompted her to carry out the murder, the investigation had revealed.
Meba was the daughter of Rajith and Neeshma. The accused Shylaja, 53, is the sister of Neeshma’s father.
The gruesome crime happened on October 13, 2016. While the funeral rituals of a relative were under way at the house, Meba went missing. The child was spotted last with Shylaja and when questioned she said that she had seen some "Bengalis" abducting the child. Frantic family members started a search for the child and the so-called Bengalis. The child's dead body was found later in the river.
The police were not convinced with Shylaja's version of the incident, and she was taken into custody.
Avenging old slight
Shylaja wanted to take revenge on the family after she was suspected of gold theft. Once Meba's waist chain had gone missing after Shylaja reached the house. Relatives suspected that Shylaja had stolen it and banned her from ever entering the ancestral house.
But after the relative's death, Shylaja once again gained entry to the house. She reportedly resolved to wreak vengeance by on the family for that slight by killing the child. After the funeral, Shylaja led the child to the back of the house and allegedly threw the girl into the nearby Manali river at Pazhayi.
Meba's mother Neeshma soon came up to Shylaja and enquired about the child. And Shylaja concocted the abduction story.
Arrested for trafficking
The police had earlier arrested Shylaja for immoral trafficking. After the incident, Shylaja found it difficult to stay on at her native place. She believed that Meba's mother and other relatives had spread the news, making her life difficult.
This also allegedly prompted Shylaja to take revenge on the family.
Though she confessed about her crime to the police, Shylaja claimed in court that she was innocent.
Shylaja's husband had died earlier. She has a daughter.
Statement from Australia
Meba's parents are working in Australia and did not get leave to attend the trial proceedings. Meba's father Ranjith was a crucial witness in the case and his statement was recorded first in the FIR. Therefore, it was imperative for the prosecution that Ranjith made his statements in court.
Finally, Ranjith gave his statements to the Thrissur judge via video-conferencing, while sitting at the Indian Embassy's office in Australia. This was a rare instance of a witness giving statements via video-conferencing in a murder case.
No witness, last-scene theory
None had seen Shylaja throwing the child into the river. The statement that child was last seen with Shylaja proved to be crucial in the case. The prosecution then adopted the 'last-scene theory' to prove the crime in court.
Other witnesses also made statements in favour of the prosecution.
If Shylaja is convicted for the murder, she could be sentenced to life imprisonment or awarded the death sentence.
Advocate K T Babu was the prosecutor, while Pudukkad inspector P Sudheeran was the probe officer.