Reports said the police recorded the arrest of Padmakumar, Anita Kumari and Anupama, picked up from Tamil Nadu, after a 10-hour interrogation.
The Kerala police on Saturday, 2 December, recorded the arrest of the key accused in the Kollam child abduction case, after interrogating them for more than 10 hours.
On Friday afternoon, the police had detained KR Padmakumar, 52, of Chathannur, his wife MR Anita Kumari, and their daughter P Anupama, 20, a social media influencer, from a restaurant at Puthur in Tamil Nadu’s Puliyara near Tenkasi, close to the Kerala border.
The family was picked up after the abducted girl identified Padmakumar from a photograph.
They were brought to the Armed Reserve Police camp at Adoor and were questioned for about 10 hours by a team led by ADGP MR Ajith Kumar and DIG R Nishanthini.
Accurate portraits, scientific investigation, and cyber-forensic evidence led to their arrest, the police said.
Speaking to the media on Saturday, Ajith Kumar said the family plotted the kidnap to tide over a financial crisis. Neither Padmakumar nor Anita and Anupama, knew the girl’s father Reji John, the officer clarified.
“He had to settle a debt of ₹10 lakh. Though he asked several people for a loan, his attempts went in vain,” the officer said.
Identifying Anita as the mastermind behind the crime, the police said Padmakumar, who had several businesses including a cable TV network, bakery, real estate, and a farm, landed in a major financial crisis during the post-Covid-19 period. Anupama, who used to earn a handsome monthly amount from YouTube, too, landed in trouble after the free video-sharing network stopped paying her.
Padmakumar reportedly told the police that people who had committed similar crimes influenced him. Earlier, he had told investigators that his wife and daughter were not involved in the crime.
He allegedly started planning the crime a year ago, but his mother who came to know about it, prevented him from executing it, The fake number plate used on the car used for kidnapping, too, was prepared long ago.
After his mother’s demise, he decided to execute the plan. The family had been watching the kidnapped girl and her brother for a month, and even aborted three attempts after seeing the children’s mother or grandmother accompanying them.
Their initial plan was to hand over a note demanding ransom to the girl’s brother. However, when he resisted, the note fell inside the car, forcing the accused to contact the girl’s mother over the phone.
After kidnapping the child, they initially demanded a ransom of ₹5 lakh, which was later raised to ₹10 lakh. The first call was made from a mobile phone borrowed from a shopkeeper.
Officer Ajith Kumar said the kidnappers sedated the child when she raised an alarm in the car, They collected her mother’s phone number when she regained consciousness, and made the first call.
Earlier, confirming the detention of the key accused in the Kollam child abduction case, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan lauded the police team for cracking the sensational case.
“The probe into the kidnap of a child in Kollam has made significant progress. The key accused are in police custody,” he told the media in an interaction organised as part of the Nave Kerala Sadas in Palakkad.
A six-year-old girl was abducted from Oyoor in Kollam district while she was heading to a tuition class with her nine-year-old brother around 4.45 pm on 27 November.
The chief minister criticised the Opposition for hindering the probe. Referring to Opposition Leader VD Satheesan’s statement that questioned the logic behind the chief minister lauding the police team, Vijayan said kidnapping for ransom has been rare in Kerala.
“We should recall that while the entire state was trying to find the child, some people tried to gain political mileage by laying siege to the police station and hindering the police from executing their duties,” he said.
Vijayan was referring to the Youth Congress march to the Pooyappalli police station.
Citing examples, the chief minister added that the Kerala police have won laurels in the country in maintaining law and order and for their investigative skills.
A white car in which the girl was kidnapped from near her house was found parked at Padmakumar’s residence at Mamballikunnam.
Earlier on Friday, the police had questioned an auto-rickshaw driver, Salahuddin, of Thiruvananthapuram, and a workshop owner, Vinod, of Chathannur, in connection with the case.
The kidnappers reportedly panicked after seeing the wide media coverage of the incident and decided to return the child. They took her in the blue car to Link Road, and Anita took the child in an autorickshaw to Asharamam Ground. After seating the girl on a concrete bench, and confirming that the student had seen the child, she left.
Reports said the kidnappers later stopped at a bakery and watched on television that the child had been identified.