9 yrs after murder of Dell techie Payal Surekha, gym trainer gets life term

Nine years after Payal Surekha, a software professional in Bengaluru was found murdered in her flat in a case that had shocked the city, a special CBI court sentenced James Ray, a gym trainer, to life imprisonment for the murder on Wednesday. 

In the horrific murder, 29-year-old Payal was bound and stabbed 23 times by the accused James Ray, who worked at a fitness centre run by Payal's husband Anantha Narayana Mishra. Ray was sacked due to misbehaviour and alleged financial irregularities.

James blamed Payal, a senior technical assistant at Dell in the city, for his dismissal and plotted for weeks to kill her at her apartment in JP Nagar in the city, the Times of India reported. James was also fined Rs 1 lakh. 

SK Umesh, who was then the inspector of JP Nagar Police Station, arrested James and recovered a blood stained knife and a pair of goggles from him. James had reportedly used the goggles before hiding it in an isolated place in Puttenahalli. The police said that James committed the murder to take revenge on Payal, The Hindu reported.

The murder had shaken the city back in 2010 and the case made headlines for weeks. Her family had even accused the husband Anantha of committing the murder.

The murder and the accusation

Originally from Assam, Payal came to Bengaluru to study MSc in Bio Technology in 2005. She met Anantha in college in Bengaluru and got married in 2008 despite objections raised by their families. 

Anantha managed gyms in Odisha and in Bengaluru in JP Nagar. James, who worked as a trainer at the gym managed by Anantha in Odisha was sacked after he was accused of misappropriating funds and misbehaving with female customers. Payal and Anantha had a fight with James and he believed that it was Payal who urged Anantha to sack him and decided to kill her.

James learned from Bhavani Shankar, Anantha’s business associate, that the couple was living in Bengaluru. A few days before the murder, he patched up with Anantha though Payal was reportedly against it. He also learnt that Anantha was away from home at the time of the murder and planned to kill Payal. He stayed at a lodge near Majestic in the city plotting the murder. He entered Payal's apartment at 9:30 am and killed her before packing his belongings and leaving for Hyderabad at 12:30 pm. He then flew to Assam.

But in a twist to the case, Payal's parents suspected that their son-in-law Anantha Narayan Mishra was involved in planning the murder. Payal's mother Kanthadevi Surekha was the one who suspected Anantha. This led to first the Central Crime Branch re-investigating the case and re-examining all evidence collected. Bengaluru police received a lot of flak after the parents kept insisting that the husband was responsible for the death and the case was handed over to the CBI.

During its re-examination of the evidence, CBI found that the strands of hair and blood samples in the crime scene belonged to James. Further, call records and cross examination of 62 witnessess proved that James planned and executed the murder.