Nedumkandam custody death: Shoddy autopsy report to help killers in khaki?

Nedumkandam custody death: Autopsy report with loose ends to aid accused?
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Peermade: The crime branch team investigating the June 21 custodial death of finance fraud accused Kumar (Rajkumar) is yet to seek the medical board’s opinion on the autopsy report.

The medical board comprises senior forensic surgeons. The board which assesses post-mortem reports and other medical records can conclusively state the reason and cause of death.

Medical boards were constituted in sensational cases like Kevin murder and Varapuzha custodial death. In the Kevin murder case, the medical board had visited the crime scene before giving its opinion. The government or the investigation team could seek constitution of the medical board on a case-to-case basis. The director of medical education can also convene the board. Usually, boards are convened for all serious cases where autopsy reports are likely to be flawed.

Finance fraud accused Kumar, who was arrested by the Nedumkandam police on June 12, died in custody on June 21.

Pro-police autopsy report

The current autopsy report is likely to assist the accused policemen to slip away eventually. The report cites pneumonia as the cause of death and has ‘found’ multiple bruises and contusions on the body.

Sources confirm that an ‘incomplete’ report with loose ends will aid the policemen. This could be the reason why the investigators were reluctant to seek a medical board opinion in the first place. The report conspicuously does not link or try to establish any connection between the bruises on the body and use of external force (indicating torture).

Sources said the report should have stated how the bruises and the contusions caused pneumonia. The body tissues were not subjected to a pathological examination. Other possible causes of death had not been listed, they said.

The body was 120 kg, way above normal. The reason for this ‘bloat’ had not been ascertained. Kumar had sought treatment after finding traces of blood in his urine. His kidneys had swollen up becoming twice the normal size- 22 grams. The swellings in other body parts were also ignored in the report.

Cops confess to crime after 8-hour grilling

Assistant sub-inspector (ASI) C B Regimon and driver Niyaz, listed as accused in the custodial torture and death of financial fraud accused Kumar on June 21, have reportedly confessed to the crime.

The duo were arrested by the crime branch special team investigating the case on Monday.

Sub-inspector K A Sabu and police driver Sajeev Antony, earlier arrested by the crime branch, had told them that Rejimon and Niyaz were the ones who relentlessly brutalised Kumar on various occasions.

The crime branch made the arrests on the basis of their statements.

Sources said Sabu and Sajeev Antony confessed to the crime in the two hours of interrogation. But it took the crime branch eight hours to break Rejimon and Niyaz, who presented multiple falsehoods in their bid to wriggle out of the situation.

They had to admit to the crime when the crime branch team systematically called the bluff on their statements.

As per the statement of the accused, the policemen of the Nedumkandam police station asked Kumar multiple times of the cash that he had stashed away. Kumar had collected the money through his Haritha Finance.

As no information was forthcoming, the police used third-degree torture methods.

Sources said the police started third-degree torture on the night of June 12. Initially, they hit below the knees. Canes were used to hit hard on the sole and the feet. As Kumar refused to budge, the police used chilli spray on the private parts of the accused. Niyaz procured the spray. After this, the police used chilli paste on Niyaz. The crime branch team had recovered the chilli buds and the pestle used to make the paste from a room adjacent to the station washroom. The chilli paste was applied on Kumar at the first-floor restroom of the Nedumkandam police station.

Chair as torture tool

As all the torture failed to yield results, Niyaz placed a chair on Kumar and sat down on it, inflicting unbearable pain.

The confessional statement of the Rejimon and Riyaz said on June 12, 13, and 14, Kumar was made to lie down on the floor to be beaten up. During these days, Kumar sustained injuries on the knee. A masseur was brought in to treat Kumar. Niyaz paid Rs. 300 to the masseur.

Investigators said Niyaz paid the cash from the Rs 72,500 seized from Kumar at th time of his arrest. (Sources said there were discrepancies in amount seized. The police had reportedly seized a larger amount from Kumar and co-accused Salini who was his partner in Haritha Finance). The crime branch team also found that SI Sabuhad not intervened to stop the torture but he too proactively took part in it.

Rejimon initially told the crime branch that he was not at the station when Kumar was interrogated. It was found that this was factually untrue. It was ascertained that he was at the station during the night on all days when Kumar was in custody.

This apart, then superintendent of police K B Venugopal had constituted a special team to check increasing instances of highway robbery on the Kumbam-Kumbammettu route. Some members of this team had also reached the Nedumkandam police station and questioned Kumar.

Phone tapping of crime branch team members

The state intelligence and the crime branch have started an investigation into reports that the cyber cell tapped the phones of officers probing the Nedumkandam custody death.

The crime branch constituted a special team to investigate the June 21 custody death of finance fraud accused Kumar after the incident created an uproar and public ire.

Reports said the then superintendent of police, Idukki, K B Venugopal, had asked an officer of the cyber cell to tap phones of all policemen from the Nedumkandam police station and those on the crime branch special team.

Reports said the information sought was on the calls made by the investigation team. This was probably to pre-empt their moves in a bid to save the accused policemen. Sources said the aim of snooping on the conversations of the station policemen were to ascertain their allegiance.

Reportedly, the calls of policemen on duty from June 12 to 16 were tapped. The policemen and officers were reluctant to even answer strictly official calls after the news of phone-tapping spread.

Sources in the Home Department said the matter was being viewed with utmost seriousness as the police itself was trying to sabotage a probe being conducted by a special team.

Now, the Nedumkandam police station was under constant watch of the crime branch team. The policemen on duty during the said period had been asked not to leave the station limits without prior permission. Also, they would need to appear before the team at short notice.

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