Amaravati, May 24 (PTI): A local court in Ongole, Andhra Pradesh, on Monday sentenced 12 members of a notorious gang to death and seven others to life imprisonment for highway robberies and murders.
The judge of the eighth Additional Sessions Court, Prakasam district, found the accused guilty and convicted them in three out of seven cases in which at least 13 people, mostly lorry drivers and cleaners, were brutally murdered.
The Andhra Pradesh High Court will have to affirm the death sentence.
Syed Abdul Samad alias Munna, who allegedly had political connections, formed the gang and started committing crimes in 2008.
Initially, he was an accused in cases wherein some rich people were trapped in the name of finding hidden treasures.
After extorting money, Munna and his accomplices would kill them.
Later, he adopted a new modus operandi under which he and his gang members posed as police personnel and started committing crimes (murders and theft) on the Chennai-Kolkata National Highway-16.
They used to stop unsuspecting drivers and, in the guise of inspecting the vehicle records, silently strangulate the driver and in some cases the cleaner as well. They used to make good their escape with the truckload and sell the goods, a senior police official said.
They hired an old godown in a village where the stolen trucks were first parked and then dismantled to be sold as scrap.
In one case, Munna and his accomplices killed the driver and the cleaner from Tamil Nadu while they were carrying a load of iron in their truck and dumped the bodies in a rivulet.
The 21.7 tonnes of iron were sold to a dealer in Guntur.
Based on a complaint filed by the lorry owner V Kuppusamy, police launched an investigation.
A small clue gathered by a trainee Deputy Superintendent of Police helped break the series of murders and led to the arrest of Munna, who was hiding in a farmhouse in Karnataka that belonged to a former MLA.
Munna was later enlarged on bail.
After several years of trial, the Ongole court found Munna and 18 of his gang members guilty of murders in three cases and accordingly convicted them. PTI DBV NVG NVG