The Mahbubnagar police in Telangana cracked the case of a serial killer, who is estimated to have allegedly murdered at least 15 people, over a span of around 10 years. The accused was identified as 42-year-old Yerukali Srinu, a native of the district. His wife, 38-year-old Salamma was also arrested by the police.
Speaking about his modus operandi, the police said that Srinu was addicted to liquor and remained at home without doing work. He would target women who would come to kallu compounds (toddy shops) to drink and befriend them. After this, Srinu would take them out on a 'picnic' and drink with them. As the women got drunk, he would allegedly kill them and decamp with their gold and silver ornaments.
Srinu was caught earlier this week after the Devarakadra police received a complaint about a dead body that was found near the Koli Sagar canal near Dokur village on December 17 at around 6 pm.
The woman, aged around 45 to 50 years, had been killed by strangulation.
A case was registered and the police found during the inquiry that Srinu had visited a toddy shop near Tirumaldev Gate in Mahabubnagar on December 16 and had approached one Chitti Alivelamma at around 5 pm.
He began talking to her as she consumed toddy and told her that a person from Devarkadra had taken a loan of Rs 20,000 from him and was refusing to repay it. Srinu convinced her that if she was able to help him recover the money, he would give her Rs 4,000.
Believing him, the woman agreed to travel with him. Srinu then bought two toddy packets and two bottles of whiskey and set off for Devarkadra with the woman. On the way to Manyamkonda, they took a diversion from the road and consumed the toddy under a tamarind tree. They also consumed a little whiskey.
They then travelled to Godam and Rampur. At around 7.30 pm on December 16, Srinu took Alivelamma on his motorcycle to a rivulet near Dokur village, where they consumed the remaining whiskey.
Noticing that Alivelamma was intoxicated, the police said that Srinu allegedly punched her repeatedly and hit her head on the ground before he strangled her. He stole a gold chain, a pair of gold ear tops, a pair of silver anklets and a leg chain.
"Further, he dragged her for a distance and threw away a cover with her belongings and the empty whiskey bottle and went away to his house and informed his wife about the crime. The duo hid the stolen property in their house itself, with an intent to sell them," the police press note said.
Investigation officials said that they managed to zero in on him, based on his modus operandi and monitoring by the crime team of the district police.
The police have now arrested Srinu and he has been sent to judicial remand.
The past crimes
Mahbubnagar District Police Superintendent Rema Rajeshwari said that all 15 other murders took place under the jurisdiction of the erstwhile Mahbubnagar district police and the Cyberabad Commissionerate. While he was earlier convicted for three of these cases, he was acquitted by local courts in the remaining 11. The police have appealed his acquittal in 11 cases.
With new cases coming to light, the police hope to appeal for stringent punishment against the accused, without scope for release from jail.
The police said that Srinu's first murder was that of his brother in 2007, under the purview of the Thimmajipet police station. Following this, investigation officials say that he allegedly killed at least five women in the areas of Balanagar, Mahbubnagar town, Nagarkurnool, Jadcherla and Shadnagar.
Srinu had even escaped from the Mahbubnagar jail in 2007 when he was under trial but was caught soon. While a court had awarded him a life sentence in the murder cases of his brother, he was released in 2013 for good behaviour.
However, he soon returned to his old ways, and began his second spree of murders.
In 2014, Srinu is alleged to have murdered women under the jurisdiction of the Shadnagar, Balanagar and Vangoor police stations.
In 2015, the police allege that he killed a woman in Shadnagar and one in Keshampet, besides committing three murders under the jurisdiction of the Shamshabad Rural police station.
He was convicted in 2015 for one of the murders and spent three years in jail before he was released in 2018. The police suspect that he may have committed at least four more murders since his release, in the villages of Kaverna, Apparla, Dokur and Kothapally. However, they are in the process of establishing the link and are working out the identities of the women.