Adesh Khamra, an unassuming tailor from Bhopal, has admitted to murdering 33 lorry drivers across India, in a span of a decade, making this one of the deadliest serial murders till date. His arrest has sent shockwaves and disbelief, especially in his neighbourhood, as no one could associate the quiet man with such heinous crimes.
Over the years, India has been witness to horrific killings which have been perpetuated by people who often kill just because they have the psychological urge to murder. We take a look at some of the scariest serial killers who have terrorised India over the years:
Thug Behram: One of the earliest known serial killers in the country, Thug Behram operated in Oudh in northern central India in the late 18th and early 19th century. The leader of the Thuggee cult, an organised group of robbers and murders, is said to have been involved in as many as 931 murders. His modus operandi was to latch on to unsuspecting travellers and strangulate them with his ceremonial rumal or handkerchief. Thug Behram was hanged to death in 1840.
Kampatimar Shankariya: One of the deadliest serial killers in the country, Kampatimar Shankariya from Jaipur murdered at least 72 people over the course of two years between 1977 and 1978. He was caught in 1978, convicted and sentenced to death in 1979. His murder tool was a hammer and he reportedly committed the murders because he derived pleasure from the act.
Charles Sobhraj: The French serial killer of Vietnamese and Indian origin gained notoriety worldwide for luring, deceiving and killing between 12 to 24 Western tourists who backpacked across Southeast Asia in the 1970s. The main motive behind the crimes was to rob tourists in order to fund his lavish lifestyle. The bodies of two of the women he allegedly killed were found in floral bikinis, hence earning him the name bikini killer. Sobhraj is currently lodged in a prison in Nepal and is reportedly married to 29-year-old Nihita Biswas, his lawyer’s daughter. Actor Randeep Hooda played the role of Sobhraj in the 2015 Bollywood film Mein Aur Charles, based on him.
Auto Shankar: Over a period of six months in 1988, nine teenage girls went missing from Thiruvanmiyur, in Madras. While the police suspected that the girls had been sold for prostitution by their families, after the family vehemently denied playing any role, the police investigated the matter further. It was when a schoolgirl complained that an auto rickshaw driver had tried to abduct her, that the police zeroed in on Gauri Shankar, an auto driver who also used to transport illicit liquor and was involved in the skin trade.
Overnight after his capture, Gauri Shankar became Auto Shankar, the serial killer who would kidnap girls, murder them, cremate them and drop their ashes in the Bay of Bengal. Shankar, along with his accomplices Eldin and Shivaji, as well as Jayavelu, Rajaraman, Ravi, Palani and Paramasivam, was found guilty of six murders. Auto Shankar was sentenced to death and hanged in Salem Central Prison on April 27, 1995.
Raman Raghav: Also known as Anna, Thambi, Sindhi Talwai and Veluswami, Raman Raghav used to bludgeon pavement dwellers to death using a hard, blunt object. Psycho Raghav who terrorised people between 1966-68, confessed to committing 23 murders in 1966 and almost a dozen in 1968. The actual count, though, is believed to be much more since Raghav suffered from schizophrenia. Raghav was lodged in Yerwada jail, Pune, where he was serving a life sentence, until his death in 1995 of a kidney ailment. Anurag Kashyap’s Raman Raghav 2.0 is based on the serial killer.
Cyanide Mohan: In a chilling series of crimes, school physical education teacher Mohan Kumar killed around 20 women over a period of five years in Southern Karnataka. Nicknamed Cyanide Mohan after he was caught, the serial killer used to lure women, elope with them after promising them marriage, have sex with them and give them ‘contraceptive pills’ laced with cyanide, the next day. Mohan would then make off with their money and gold jewellery. Law finally caught up with him in 2010 and Mohan was arrested. Cyanide Mohan is serving a life sentence for the murder, rape and robbery of 28-year-old woman – the fifth case he has been convicted of. Many more such cases are still pending. He was also sentenced to death in three of the murder cases – a conviction that Mohan, who is defending his own case, has appealed against.
Cyanide Mallika: Hailing from Kaggalipura in Karnataka, Cyanide Mallika worked as a housemaid who dreamed of getting rich overnight. She started robbing from the houses she worked in but was caught and sentenced to a year in jail. She completed her sentence and launched a chit fund, which bombed as well. That was when she moved to murder to make easy money. Her targets were usually vulnerable women from rich families who would approach her for help on domestic issues or because they were unable to have children.
Posing as a pious woman, she would gain their trust, call them to a distant temple and ask them to come dressed in fine jewellery to appease the gods. Once there, she would offer the women cyanide-laced water and food and take off with their jewellery. This happened for eight years, during which she kept changing her name to avoid being caught.
She was finally caught in 2006 while trying to escape with the jewellery of one of her victims. Cyanide Mallika was convicted in 2012 and awarded death sentence, which was later turned into a life term. She was previously serving time in Parappana Agrahara Central Jail in Bengaluru, where she is Sasikala’s neighbour and is currently lodged in Hindalga prison in Belagavi, north Karnataka,
Surinder Koli and Moninder Singh Pander: In one of the most horrific crimes ever, wealthy businessman from Noida, Moninder Singh Pandher, and his help Surinder Koli were arrested in 2006 over the discovery of skulls of missing children. The case came to light in 2006 when eight skeletal remains were discovered from a drain near Pandher’s house. As more skeletons and body parts were unearthed, accusations of rape, cannibalism, paedophilia and organ trafficking started doing the rounds. A total of 17 skulls were recovered from the nearby land, out of which one belonged to a 20-year-old woman, while the others were of children. Currently, both Koli and Pandher are facing trial on various charges. They were awarded the death sentence on the ninth case, among a total of 16 cases filed against them.
Seema Gavit and Renuka Shinde: Trained as petty thieves by their own mother, Anjanabai, sisters Seema Gavit and Renuka Shinde from Maharashtra used children as decoys while robbing people. In the process, the killer sisters kidnapped nearly 13 children between June 1990 and October 1996, often teaching them to pickpocket. Children, some as young as nine months old, who would cause problems were killed and, over a period of six years, the duo reportedly murdered six toddlers and many more children before that. The two are currently on a death sentence and have exhausted their appeals to have their execution stayed.