Kottayam: Another death in custody keeps the spotlight on Kerala Police and its inhuman ways. The autopsy report of an accused prisoner, named M J Jacob, who died under mysterious circumstances at the Mavelikkara sub-jail in Kerala's Alappuzha district in March suggests he was likely murdered though it was passed off initially as suicide caused by choking himself with a handkerchief.
This case of police atrocity has come to light amid the row over financier Kumar's death last month while in custody at the Nedumkandom police station in the eastern Idukki district. Coincidentally, both Kumar, 49, and Jacob, 68, were accused of financial misappropriation. While Kumar was accused of loan fraud, Jacob was allegedly involved in an insurance fraud.
The three serious injuries found on various parts of Jacob's body were inflicted hours before Jacob's death, the autopsy report states. It is suspected the injuries were caused due to assault by a hard object or by hitting on rough places. The post-mortem of Jacob, who died on March 21, was conducted around 12.30 pm the next day at the Alappuzha Medical College Hospital. He was taken into custody on March 20.
The wound on Jacob's forehead was 3.5-cm long and had 0.5-cm width, as per the autopsy report. Injuries that were 4-cm long were also found below the left ear.
The injuries above the ear were 1.5cm long. The handkerchief found inserted in Jacob's throat was found drenched in saliva and body fluids.
These injuries support the argument that the Jacob died of asphyxiation, the report says. Other symptoms on the body that hinted at asphyxiation are swelling in the brain and blood clot in the eyes. He had bitten his tongue.
Crucially, there was no hint of any disease that could have could have caused Jacob's death, the report states.
It further states that the injuries could have been caused during a scuffle and that Jacob's teeth could have been dislocated and fallen off then. However, there were no injuries inside the mouth, on the gums or lips.
The forensic surgeons’ team had given statement to the probe officers that Jacob did not insert the handkerchief on his own and killed self. However, the report said that it was not possible to ascertain the exact mode of murder based on the autopsy findings.
What happened that fateful night
Pertinently, several crucial questions were raised in the report by the magistrate who probed the custodial death case. It is not known what happened from the time Jacob was taken into the cell at 9.12 pm till 6 am, the next day. The identity of the cop who took Jacob to the cell and also who shared the cell that night also need to be found out. It also has to be found what all articles were in Jacob's possession while he was incarcerated, the magistrate notes.
Though statements of other prisoners were similar, magistrate's report points to likely foul play as all of them except one had said that Jacob had committed suicide. The jail superintendent himself had recorded their versions.
One Unnikrishnan, who was in the adjoining cell, had given statement to the magistrate that he had heard screams at night. He also said that another prisoner Stephen Varghese had tried to attack him. The report sought to know why Stephen tried to attack Unnikrishnan.
If Jacob had indeed choked himself to death by stuffing a handkerchief, which was 39- cm long and 36.5-cm wide, how is that no noise came out of his cell, the report raises a crucial question. The doctors who conducted the postmortem too cast aspersions over this. They had informed the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP), who first probed the case, that there were all possibilities that hint at Jacob's murder. Citing examples from forensic reports, the doctors also pointed out deaths with signs as in the case of Jacob's body were often murders.
Jacob's implanted teeth were brought separately to the hospital along with the body. With the teeth dislocated, it could have been easier to insert the handkerchief. This could have been the reason why no injuries were found in the mouth, the doctors pointed out.
Moreover, the CCTV cameras at the jail have not captured any visuals from 11.41 pm on March 20 to 12.04 am the next day, raising suspicions. The report also flagged the same handwritings that were found on the letters sent from the jail on March 19 and 21, complaining about the malfunctioning cameras.
Jacob's son Alex also said that his father had survived even worse scenarios, according to the report, though it is known what is hinted at.
Crime Branch DySP to probe
Meanwhile, the probe into Jacob's death has been handed over to Alappuzha district Crime Branch DySP K Jayaraj. The move comes the magistrate recorded as unsatisfactory the investigation carried out by Chengannur DySP.
The Thiruvalla Circle Inspector will hold the investigation into the insurance fraud case in which Jacob is the first accused. An FIR regarding this was registered on January 4.
Ajith Thomson, the second accused in the case, is yet to be arrested.
CI P R Santosh was the Thiruvalla station house officer when Jacob was arrested. The fraud case was probed by the then SI Adarsh.