Early in 2017, two scheduled caste girls aged nine and 12, one 5.15 feet tall and the younger 4.23 ft, were found hanging on a rafter 12 ft high 53 days apart. As if these Walayar 'suicides' were not strange enough, the police then went about collecting evidence and mobilising witnesses in the weirdest possible ways.
Now, serious doubts have been raised about the culpability of the four men and a minor boy the Special Investigation Team had identified as the main accused in the torture and abetment to suicide of the two girls. It is said these men are mere offerings, sacrificial goats, for the sins of powerful, politically connected local bigwigs.
What is certain is that the girls were brutally abused (the post-mortem report says the anal area of the elder girl suffered extreme torture). Still uncertain are the real perpetrators of the crime.
The four adults who had been accused and later acquitted by the court are Madhu alias Kutty Madhu(26), Pradeep Kumar (32), Madhu alias Valiya Madhu (28), and Shibu (45). The fifth accused was a minor and his case is before the Juvenile Justice Board.
If the Palakkad First Class Additional Sessions Court had let off the men picked by the police, it was because the judge concluded that the police had messed up the investigation. In five separate judgments, one delivered on September 30 and the other four delivered nearly a month later on October 25, 2019, additional sessions Judge S Muralikrishna termed most of the witnesses lined up by the prosecution against the accused as “planted”. (There were two judgments for Valiya Madhu as he was accused of abusing both the girls.)
Three witnesses, three elections
Intriguing is the case of three prosecution witnesses (PW9, PW10, and PW12) in the case against Pradeep Kumar. All the three had told the police that they had one day gone out together with the victim (the elder girl) to canvas votes for elections. And while on the campaign trail, all three said the victim suddenly froze on seeing the accused (Pradeep Kumar). They also said the girl told them that the man had done bad things to her. The girl is said to have frequented Pradeep's house for tuition, and also to play.
Till this point they were in agreement. But when they were speaking about the election campaign they were part of, each had a different election in mind. PW9 said they were campaigning for the Assembly elections, PW10 said it was for an SFI election and PW12 said it was for a panchayat election.
“These contradictions in the deposition of PW9, PW10 and PW12 show that they are planted witnesses to suit the prosecution case and these witnesses are deposing falsehood before the court with a view to help the prosecution,” the judge noted in his September 30 order.
PW12 was categorical that it were the panchayat elections because her mother was a candidate. She said they were campaigning for her mother. The court pointed out that the panchayat elections took place in 2015 and the prosecution's case was that the girls were abused between January 2016 and September 2016. Moreover, the court noted that the girl could not have talked about Pradeep to PW12 in 2015 as he rented a house near the victims only in 2016.
It was PW12's statement that the prosecution relied on more to establish Pradeep's link to the suicide because it was she who gave more details of the accused's alleged twisted behaviour. She had told the police that Pradeep had given the victim a mobile and asked her to take a nude picture of him. However, the court pointed out that such a charge was not found in the original statement recorded by the police.
DySP who made things happen
This additional charge came into being the moment the case was taken over by M J Sojan, the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Narcotic Cell, Palakkad. Additional charges against the other three also cropped up after Sojan took over the case from the Kasaba circle inspector.
In fact, none gave any incriminating evidence against any of the accused until DySP Sojan took over the investigation. Sojan took the accused into custody a day before he officially arrested them. “What prompted the DySP to take the accused into custody when none of the witnesses named him (the accused) is still unknown,” the court said.
The DySP had said the four accused had confessed to their involvement. The court but wondered what prevented the DySP from recording their confessions before the arrests.
DySP Sojan had also collected 30-odd items from the scene of death. He had also seized the clothes of the accused. He collected samples for DNA profiling, too. All of these were then sent for chemical analysis. All the reports turned up negative results. “No semen or spermatozoa could be collected either from the specimen collected from the deceased girl or from the dresses of the accused. Therefore, there is absolute absence of scientific evidence to connect the accused with the alleged offence,” the court noted.
Stepfather's changing narrative
The case against Valiya Madhu, who is said to have abused both the girls, is even more perplexing. He is said to have visited the house on the day the elder girl was found hanging. The girls are his nieces.
The victims' stepfather and mother had testified that they had seen Valiya Madhu taking advantage of their girls. When the police first took his statement, the stepfather said he had seen Valiya Madhu touching his step-daughter's chest. But after DySP Sojan took charge, the stepfather said he had seen Valiya Madhu subjecting the child to anal penetration. It was inexplicable why the parents were silent about such violent abuse till the death of the second child.
The girl's mother had said she had told this to her mother, the victim's grandmother. However, the grandmother later testified that her daughter had told her nothing. The parents had opened up about Valiya Madhu's alleged actions only after the DySP took over the investigation. The police had recorded their statements several times but not once have they told about the horrors they saw Madhu do to their child. Till then the Circle Inspector was in charge and no witnesses had told him anything that could link the accused to the suicides.
What's more, many of the witnesses who had testified that they had seen the accused visiting the victim's house had withdrawn their statements. The court said: “I have no hesitation to hold that statements of some of the material witnesses are fabricated or gathered under compulsion.”
There was a mystery witness, too. A woman in the neighbourhood told the DySP that the girl had told her about the pain she was suffering in the “rectal area”. The Court found this quite baffling. “Till DySP Sojan took over the investigation, the woman did not approach any of the police officers and disclose the facts known to her. How the DySP specifically went to the woman and gathered information from her is unknown as she was working in Thrissur and came to her house near the victim's only occasionally. Considering the nature of the evidence, it can only be said that the woman is a planted witness,” the court said.