he body was abandoned by the duo at an uninhabited area under Valliyoor police station limits in Tamil Nadu's Tirunelveli district. (Representational image)
When the Kerala Police on Tuesday arrested a hotel manager and his school-time girlfriend on charges of killing his wife, what unspooled was a murder mystery with the crime and diversion of probe drawing upon ideas and themes from two movies, according to police.
K Premkumar (40), a manager of a leading hotel in Kochi, and Sunitha Baby (39), nursing superintendent at a private hospital in Thiruvananthauram, were arrested on charges of strangulating Vidhya (48) to death on September 21. The body was abandoned by the duo at an uninhabited area under Valliyoor police station limits in Tamil Nadu's Tirunelveli district. The Tamil Nadu Police had found the body and buried it as unidentified.
Kochi (City) ACP R Vishwanath said that Premkumar rushed to Kochi to file a complaint that his wife was missing, a day after disposing the body. However, before the complaint, Premkumar and Sunitha had left Vidhya's mobile phone switched on inside a dustbin in Netravati Express, which runs between Thiruvananthapuram and Lokmanya Tilak Terminus.
The ACP said Premkumar confessed that he abandoned the phone in such a manner to distract the police, an idea he got from the Malayalam film 'Drishyam'. After Premkumar moved the missing complaint, police located Vidhya's mobile phone somewhere near Mangaluru en route the train's journey, but it had gone dead since.
The ACP said Vidhya and Premkumar had a troubled marriage and she had the habit of leaving home for short periods. "Premkumar tried to take advantage of that history. We began to doubt Premkumar because he moved an anticipatory bail two weeks after the missing case was registered. Police had searched his house but he was reluctant to appear before police to give a statement, a normal procedure in such complaints. Besides, he started complaining to police higher-ups, alleging that the investigating team was harassing him. This also strengthened our suspicion,'' he said.
The breakthrough happened a few days ago when the police got a voice message indicating Premkumar's role. Police did not reveal details of the voice message.
The ACP said Premkumar and Sunitha studied together in school 25 years ago and their batch held an alumni meet earlier this year after forming a WhatsApp group. "They were meeting at the reunion for the first time after 25 years and renewed the relationship," the ACP said.
Sunitha was living with her husband and three children in Hyderabad. After meeting her former boyfriend, Sunitha flew back to Thiruvananthapuram. After taking a house on rent, Premkumar and Sunitha started living together in Thiruvananthapuram while maintaining their families in Kochi and Hyderabad.
"Premkumar told us that his affair after 25 years was influenced by the Tamil movie 96 which speaks about an affair rekindled during a reunion of school students after 22 years," the ACP said.
The police said the immediate provocation for murdering Vidhya was Premkumar's grouse that he was neglected during the marriage of her daughter from her first marriage. "In August, during the daughter's marriage, Vidhya did not give Premkumar due respect, which worsened their relationship. She had even wanted to go for a divorce. She also came to know about Premkumar's affair with Sunitha,'' police said.
Premkumar took Vidhya to the rented house in Thiruvananthapuram on September 21. Vidhya reached the house, unaware that Sunitha was on the first floor of the building. Vidhya was strangulated to death by the duo in the night and the body was kept in the toilet till next day as the two thought about ways to dispose of the body.
The ACP said that Premkumar's relationship with Sunitha was not the same after the murder. "Sunitha was not ready to accept Premkumar's two children, both school-going. They were even mulling to pull apart. Hence Premkumar consigned his children to the care of his parents," he said.