The police on Wednesday, 12 October, revealed how the story of how two missing cases turned into a shocking story of human sacrifice in Kerala.
What tumbled out could be used in textbooks as an example of the axiom that goes: “Truth is stranger than fiction.”
Two women — Padma and Rosli Varghese — were reported missing from Kadavanthra and Kalady, respectively, earlier this year.
From the lurid lures the prime accused dangled before them to his psychological perversion to even possible cannibalism, the police laid bare some frightening details of the case on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, they exhumed parts of two dismembered bodies buried adjacent to a house in Elanthoor in the Pathanamthitta district.
At the office of Kochi City Police Commissioner’s office on Wednesday, the cops stated that all three accused — Muhammad Shafi alias Rashid, Bhagaval Singh, and his wife Laila — had been arrested and produced before a judicial magistrate first class (JMFC) court in Ernakulam. The court sent the three accused to police custody for 14 days.
And the actions of Shafi, from previous crimes like raping a senior citizen to this one, where the police said he confessed to cannibalism, took centre stage at the press conference.
Meanwhile, the car and weapons — especially a knife — allegedly used for the crime were attached as evidence in the case.
The police later clarified that they would conduct DNA tests of relatives of the deceased. As the body parts had to be cleaned, the post-mortem examination might happen only on Thursday.
The case of the missing lottery salesperson
The police started the investigation after a case was registered at the Kadavanthra Police Station on 26 September.
The person who was missing was a 52-year-old woman named Padma, a resident of Elamkulam in the Ernakulam district in Kerala.
She hailed from Tamil Nadu, and sold lottery tickets near the Ernakulam South railway station premises.
Padma stayed alone in a rented house in Elamkulam.
Kochi city Police Commissioner Nagaraju Chakilam told reporters on Wednesday: “As soon as the missing case was registered, our DCP for Law and Order, S Sasidharan, sensed something wrong in the case. He called the officers, held a meeting, and set up a special team.”
According to the police, the analysis of some CCTV footage gave them the first break in the case.
The footage showed a white Mahindra Scorpio car, that was later linked to the prime accused in the case: Shafi, alias Rashid.
The cops, meanwhile, tracked the location of the last tower where Padma’s phone had pinged, which led the investigation to Elanthoor in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala.
The police used further the CCTV footage to link him to Bhagaval Singh and Laila. During interrogation, the couple spilt the story of the murders.
Shafi, alias Rashid, the prime accused
The police stated that Shafi alias Rashid, the prime accused in the case, has a wife and children. However, they said, he was a psychopath and a pervert who had eight other cases registered against him in several police stations in the state.
These include the rape of a 75-year-old woman, a case in which Shafi is out on bail.
Shafi, a person who studied till the sixth standard in school, made a fake Facebook profile named “Sreedevi” to adduce Bhagaval Singh and Laila to perform the human sacrifice, said the cops.
“If he (Shafi) was intent on committing a crime, he would first make up a story and convince people that the story was real, and then act on it,” the police commissioner told reporters. He added that Shafi knew almost all the lottery ticket sellers in Kochi city.
The police also said that through Bhagaval Singh knew Shafi in person, the former was initially contacted by the prime accused contacted through the aforementioned fake Facebook profile.
The police alleged that Shafi had sexual perversion, and derived “sadistic pleasures” by causing “injury, harm, and even death”.
They explained: “For sadistic pleasure, he would make up stories and trap any person. Each time he did anything like this, he took the help of people who are vulnerable.”
The police commissioner told reporters: “There are no jobs that Shafi has not done, no place he has not visited. He actually hatched the plan and trapped the other two accused into believing that human sacrifice was needed for their financial well-being.”
The remand report furnished by the police in court stated that Shafi allegedly promised Padma ₹15,000 for sex work. In June, Shafi is said to have lured Rosli by saying he would get her ₹10 lakh if she acted in an adult-entertainment film.
As per the remand report, Padma was taken to the house of Bhagaval Singh and Laila around 4 pm on 26 September.
The three accused choked her with a plastic rope till she fell unconscious, and subsequently decapitated her, the police said.
Later, they cut her body into small pieces, and buried them in the compound in small sacks to avoid suspicion, the police said.
Months earlier, Rosli was also taken to the house of Bhavgal Singh and Laila. Her hands and legs were tied and she was gagged on the pretext of shooting an adult entertainment film, said the police.
They added that the accused dismembered and decapitated her.
Meanwhile, DCP S Sasidharan told the Indian Express that Shafi cooked body parts of Rosli and ate the flesh.
Police Commissioner Nagaraju Chakilam said in response to a question by South First, on whether they had information of any other woman contacted by Shafi, that investigations were underway on that front.
He added following another South First query that both murders were committed during twilight hours.