Rajakumari, Idukki: The body of a 32-year-old man, who had gone missing four months ago, was found in a sack dumped in a rugged valley on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border, near here, on Monday.
Investigations revealed that the victim, Vazhayil Rajeev, a resident of Thottikanam near Santhanpara, were beaten to death following a dispute over his missing mobile phone.
Three people, including a woman, were arrested in connection with the murder. They were identified as Vazhattu Gopi, 48, of Mangathotti, Vakkottil Babu, 49, of Thottikanam, and his partner Emily, 40, a native of Anayirankal.
Based on the confessional statements of the accused, the police searched the Rajapparamedu area on Monday and recovered Rajeev’s body from the steep gorge along the Tamil Nadu border.
The highly decomposed body was identified by his relatives based on his clothes.
On July 10, the victim’s mother Kousalya had lodged a man-missing complaint at the Santhanpara police station, stating that Rajeev had not returned home after appearing before the Judicial First Class Magistrate Court at Nedumkandam in connection with a case.
Acting on the complaint, the Santhanpara police had questioned his employer, but could not find anything suspicious.
As the police continued to grope in the dark, Kouslaya approached Idukki district police chief K M Venugopal, seeking to intensify the investigation. Following which the case was handed over to a seven-member police team, led by Kumali sub-inspector Jobi Thomas.
Rajeev was an employee at the cardamom plantation owned by Gopi. The other accused, Babu and Emily, too worked there.
On July 10, Rajeev complained to Gopi that his mobile phone was stolen by Babu and Emily. In the evening, the trio had heated arguments with Rajeev and one of them hit him with a spade handle. When he fell down, they beat him up and struck on his head with a large stone.
After ensuring that he was dead, they stuffed the body in a jute sack and hid it in the plantation.
Gopi and Babu returned to the spot under the cover of darkness and took the dead body in the former’s pick-up jeep and dumped it in the forested valley in Rajapparamettu, a remote area located about 10 kilometers away from the plantation.
The police said that Gopi was an accused in multiple cases registered at different police stations including an attempt on the life of his father by stomping him deep into a paddy field over land dispute.
It was only recently he came out of jail after serving a long term in connection with a vehicle theft case.
He has set up a workshop next to his house with the sole objective of dismantling the stolen vehicle to sell them in form of parts.
There are several pending cases against him for theft and smuggling of sandalwood, the police added.
Gopi, who used to live in Thottikanam near Santhanpara, sold the properties there and shifted to Mangathotti a couple of years ago.
Babu and Emily had been living together for the past six months after the former’s wife abandoned him.
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