Kochi: Putting an end to days of cinema-style uncertainty, the Kerala police on Monday arrested Malayalam actor Dileep in connection with the sensational actress attack case which rocked Kerala.
Kerala police chief Loknath Behera said Dileep was arrested after the police secured fresh evidence in the case.
"Dileep has been arrested. We are questioning him," he told reporters. He said no other person has been taken into custody in connection with the case. However, the police reportedly also questioned three other people, including Dileep's friend Nadhirshah, Monday.
"We are very clear about proper treatment. There will be no violation of rights and all legal processes will be followed," Behera said. The police chief refused to share further details.
Dileep was produced before the magistrate court on Tuesday and sent to judicial custody.
The 48-year-old actor is accused of conspiracy behind the abduction and assault of the actress, an incident that has sent shock waves in the state.
Though he was arrested Monday evening following his questioning for the second time, the actor was in custody from morning itself.
Though the police had, earlier, suspected alleged benami deals involving Dileep and the victim as the trigger for the attack, the investigators now believe that personal enmity was the motive.
Sources said that the victim's alleged role in actor's personal life angered him and he wanted to settle scores with her. Dileep had admitted that he was not in good terms with the actress, who survived the horrific night.
Sources said that the conspiracy was hatched at a hotel in Kochi during a rehearsal for AMMA show, almost three years ago.
The actress, who has worked in South Indian films, was abducted and allegedly molested inside her car for two hours by the accused, who had forced their way into the vehicle on February 17 night and later escaped in a busy area in Kochi.
Mollywood in shock
The Malayalam film fraternity reacted with shock as Dileep was taken into police custody.
Director Vinayan said that Dileep's arrest was a 'scar' on Malayalam cinema. "I hope such reports are wrong. If it is indeed a film artist behind such a heinous crime, it would be heights of shame for Mollywood."
Women in Cinema Collective, however, said that they wanted their colleague, who was attacked in Kochi, to get justice.
Victim's family welcomes arrest
Meanwhile, the family of the actress expressed happiness over the outcome of the investigation.
"We are happy with the outcome of the case. It shows the almighty's touch in the case," they said in a statement. The actress and her family had maintained that they have full faith in the probe by the police despite voices being raised from various quarters seeking CBI probe into the investigation.
Demonstrations were taken out in various parts of Kerala, and protests broke out instantly after the arrest. A restaurant called 'Dhe Puttu' at Palarivattom in Kochi, owned by Dileep and friend and film-maker Nadhirshah, also saw protests. The DYFI activists vandalized the restaurant's Kozhikode branch late Monday night. They smashed the glass panes and also destroyed the furniture. Yuva Morcha burnt Dileep in effigy in the Kozhikode. There was a steady flow of people to the Aluva police club too.
Instant protests break out, Yuva Morcha burns Dileep in effigy
Links with Pulsar Suni
Though the police arrested Sunil Kumar alias Pulsar Suni, the prime accused in the assault case, six days after the attack, it was only recently the conspiracy angle was cropped up in the police probe.
It's said that Dileep's constant denial of having any links with main accused Pulsar Suni proved suicidal for him.
On April 20, Dileep had alleged blackmail by a man, who claimed that he was a friend of Pulsar Suni in the case.
Later, Dileep’s close friend and director Nadhirshah filed a police complaint saying that he had received a call from a friend of Pulsar Suni demanding ransom not to implicate Dileep.
Police had questioned Pulsar Suni for allegedly making phone calls from jail to threaten and blackmail Dileep and his friend-director Nadhirshah.
13-hour marathon grilling
The arrest came days after a 13-hour marathon grilling of Dileep and director Nadhirshah at the Aluva police club on June 28. Pulsar Suni arrested six days after the crime, had alleged a conspiracy behind the incident. He said he was commissioned to commit the crime for Rs 50 lakh. A letter purportedly written by or at the behest of Pulsar Suni to Dileep and an audio clip of a telephonic conversation between the accused and Appunni had come out recently, pointing fingers at the actor.
Dileep had repeatedly denied having any links with Suni even while admitting that he was not in good terms with the actress, who survived the horrific night. The actress was waylaid, abducted and allegedly molested by the gang in the car, when she was returning from her workplace.
The first breakthrough in the case came after the police arrested Martin Antony, the driver of the car which became the 'crime scene,' soon after the incident. Martin, who feigned innocence, later revealed the role of Suni and co in the case.
The special investigation team is headed by inspector-general of police (IGP) Dinendra Kashyap. Additional director-general of police (ADGP) B. Sandhya is the supervising officer.
The police had come under severe criticism for failing to identify and nail the conspirators. The police stance was that arrests without proper evidence gathering would affect the case adversely and lead to the court quashing the charges.