Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXVIII No. 22, March 1-15, 2019
It all started with the sudden disappearance of Thaika Thambi of Kilakarai of Ramanathapuram District, from the lodging house in which he was staying in Madras City on October 24, 1972. He was carrying with him a sum of Rs. 10,000 at the time of his disappearance. A worried father-in-law lodged a complaint with the Seven Wells Police Station in Madras City, which was duly registered and investigated. As no clues could be obtained, the investigation was not pursued.
The case was transferred to the Crime Branch, CID in January 1973. It was ascertained by the CID officers that the missing Thaika Thambi was often seen in the company of one Mohammed Thambi. The latter was eventually traced at Kilakarai and on being interrogated, he revealed the fact that he had been introduced by one Kadar to some “Custom Officers” and a “peon” in the last week of October, 1972 and they had promised to give him a good reward if he would point out persons engaged in gold smuggling. Mohammed Thambi used to earn his living by selling conches and he was naturally excited at the prospect of earning a handsome reward from the so-called Custom Officers. He was aware of the fact that his friend, Thaika Thambi, was indulging in the smuggling of gold and that he had planned to go to Bangalore in the last week of October, 1972, for that purpose. He therefore took Kadar along with him to the Central Railway Station at Madras and pointed out Thaika Thambi as he boarded the train and that was the last seen of Thaika Thambi.
The CID investigating officers rightly figured that the so called “Custom Officers” were not genuine and they lost no time in tracking them down. The first of the bogus Custom Officers to be picked up was Vaitheeswaran. He hailed from a well-to-do family and was running a pharmacy in George Town, Madras. He was an apothecary of some distinction, but he pandered to the drug addiction of cine artists by providing them pethidine injections. In the course of his business, he came into contact with one Dawood who was involved in the sale of smuggled articles. Vaitheeswaran ran into financial difficulties and he readily accepted the suggestion of Dawood that they could amass wealth by stripping persons of unaccounted gold or black money by posing as Customs Officers.
Vaitheeswaran then got into touch with his friends Parthasarathy, Venugopal, and Ayub Khan and persuaded them to join him in executing these plans. Ayub Khan, in turn, persuaded Jaffarulla, a room boy in Hotel-de-Broadway in Madras City, to point out persons staying in his hotel who were carrying gold or black money. Majeed, another servant of the same hotel, teamed up with the gang. These two hotel servants located one such person on the night of October 19, 1970. He was Vadivelan Chettiar of Siruvayal in Ramanathapuram District who had come to stay in Hotel-de-Broadway with a cash of Rs.1,50,000 being the proceeds of what is popularly known as “compensatory payment racket” or what in other words is violation of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act. Having obtained this information from the hotel servants, Vaitheeswaran and his gang descended on Vadivelan Chettiar, posed as Custom Officers and took him away by force in a taxi driven by one Gopal in the pretext of taking him to their office for interrogation. En route, Vadivelan Chettiar was forced to swallow an excessive dosage of sleeping pills brought by Vaitheeswaran from his pharmacy. Vadivelan Chettiar soon became unconscious and he was thrown out of the taxi in Senneri village after being divested of his wrist watch and cash.
The hapless victim was discovered by some villagers in the early hours of the following morning and was removed to Chingleput Medical College hospital, where he expired two days later without regaining consciousness. Vaitheeswaran, Parthasarathy, Venugopal and Ayub Khan got the lion’s share of the booty amounting to Rs. 30,000 each while Dawood, Gopal and Majeed were given a smaller share. The Chingleput police registered a case of suspicious death and managed to establish the identity of the deceased from a tailor’s label found on his shirt collar, but they could not trace the culprits.
Emboldened by these early successes, the murderous gang actively pursued their career of crime. The next victim was Sahul Hameed of Malaysia, who came to Madras in March, 1971 to visit his relations. He carried with him a sum of Rs. 55,000 and strangely enough, he stayed in Hotel-de-Broadway too. The two hotel servants carried this information to the leader of the gang who summoned his accomplices and picked up Sahul Hameed. They took him by force in a car to an air-conditioned cottage attached to one of the premier hotels in Madras City. They posed as Custom Officers and told Sahul Hameed that they would administer truth serum to him in order to ascertain the true origin of his money. So, saying, they administered heavy doses of pethidine which soon rendered Sahul Hameed unconscious. Thereafter, he was put in a car driven by one Lakshmanan and was taken to Nagaripet in Chittor District of Andhra Pradesh. They relieved him of his watch and cash and hung him on a way-side tree, as though he had committed suicide.
Vaitheeswaran and his associates celebrated their success by lavish spending, and this came to the notice of one Dakshinamurthy who was known to Venugopal and who happened to be an informant of the Customs Department. Dakshinamurthy promptly informed the Custom Officers that he suspected that Venugopal was indulging in gold smuggling. The Customs Officers for their part made a quick search of Venugopal’s house and though they did not recover any smuggled gold, they seized a written statement of Vadivelan Chettiar which had been recorded by the gang, when they had posed as Custom Officers. This statement proved to be of immense value during the trial of the case as it proved beyond all doubt that Vadivelan Chettiar had been in the company of the accused.
Venugopal deduced the fact that Dakshinamurthy had betrayed him to the Customs Department. Dakshinamurthy, therefore, became a marked man and in July 1971, Venugopal induced Dakshinamurthy to accompany him on a pleasure trip to Bangalore in a car driven by Vaitheeswaran and Parthasarathy by turn. Gopal, Ayub Khan and Laskhmanan followed in two other cars. En route, near Chittor, Parthasarathy and Venugopal administered fatal blows to Dakshinamurthy to which he succumbed. They then stripped him naked, threw him under a culvert, poured petrol on his body and set fire to it. Dakshinamurthy’s father lodged a complaint in North Beach Police Station in Madras about his missing son but the investigation by the North Beach Police was not fruitful.
Soon after this incident, Ayub Khan managed to get friendly with Kadar who had previously been employed by a notorious smuggler and operator of the compensatory payment racket. He introduced Venugopal and Parthasarathy to Kadar as “Customs Officers” and promised handsome rewards if he gave good information about gold smuggling, black money and allied matters. Kadar was able to point out one Buhari Thambi of Kayalpatnam who was about to entrain by the Rameswaram Express at Tambaram Railway Station in October 1971. Buhari Thambi had a tidy sum of Rs. 55,000 in his possession. Thereupon Parthasarathy, Venugopal and Vaitheeswaran posed as Custom Officers, accosted Buhari Thambi and took him away forcibly in a car. On the way, he was administered heavy doses of pethidine and after he had collapsed, he was stripped naked and abandoned near Chittor in Andhra Pradesh. The loot was shared by Vaitheeswaran, Venugopal, Parthasarathy, Ayub Khan and Kannan, while Kadar was given a “Customs reward” of Rs. 10,000 for having pointed out Buhari Thambi.
The next victim was Sadak Ibrahim of Kayalpatnam of Ramanathapuram District who was born and brought up in Sri Lanka and had been deported sometime later. He became an important link in the compensatory payment racket and was spotted by Kadar in January, 1972 while he was carrying a sum of Rs. 60,000 and was about to board a bus at Egmore in Madras city. As usual, Parthasarathy and Venugopal posed as “Customs Officers” and took him away in a car driven by Vaitheeswaran. Once again, “truth serum” in the form of pethidine was administered by force and the victim was strangled to death with a fan belt after he became unconscious. Thereafter, he was stripped naked and his body was set on fire after pouring petrol on it at a spot near the foot of the Palmaneri hills in Andhra Pradesh. The booty was shared by the assassins and Kadar once again got a good amount of money as “Customs reward”.
In October, 1972, Kadar introduced the members of the gang to Mohammed Thambi as “Customs Officers”. The latter gave the information that Thaika Thambi, a gold smuggler, was going to Bangalore, Kannan was assigned the task of shadowing Thaika Thambi while other members of the gang left for Bangalore by car. The gang trailed the movements of Thaika Thambi in Bangalore for a period of two days and when he was waiting to board a bus with 23 gold biscuits in his jacket, he was accosted by the gang, put into a car and driven away.
The usual modus operandi of administering pethidine injection was resorted to and the victim soon collapsed. The body was abandoned in a pond near Mohili Venkatagiri and the ruthless criminals shared the gold biscuits among themselves.
These startling details were revealed by Vaitheeswaran in the course of an intensive interrogation by the CID officers, who lost no time in laying their hands on Parthasarathy, Dawood, Gopalan, Lakshmanan, Ayub Khan, Kannan and Majeed. Venugopal surrendered before the Sub Magistrate at Krishnagiri in Dharampuri District and gave a voluntary judicial confession.
The investigation took the Officers-in-charge of it to various places in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. Visits were also made to Malaysia and Sri Lanka where valuable pieces of evidence pertaining to finger prints, photographs, etc., of some of the victims were collected. Properties in the form of currency, gold biscuits, jewellery, silver articles, clothes and cars to the value of about Rs. 3 lakh were recovered from the possession of the accused persons after a very painstaking and thorough investigation.
Doctors M.N. Ganapathy and S. Janaki, Professors of Forensic Medicine, Madras Medical College, Chandrasekaran, Additional Director of the Tamil Nadu Forensic Science and Chemical Laboratory and the Directors of the Finger Print Bureaux at Madras and Hyderabad rendered invaluable assistance in establishing the identity of the victims, as well as the manner in which they were murdered. Venugopal became an approver and a charge-sheet was filed in Court in October, 1973 against the eight members of the gang for conspiracy, abduction, robbery and murder.
The trial, commenced in June 1974 in the Court of Sessions during which 263 witnesses were examined, 672 exhibits were filed, and 1087 material objects were marked. The cases were defended by a team of eminent lawyers. S. Vijayarangam, Additional Sessions Judge, Madras who tried the case found the accused guilty under Sections 120 (b), 364, 328, 392 and 303 of the Indian Penal Code. He sentenced Vaitheeswaran, Parthasarathy, Lakshmanan and Kannan to death and awarded life sentence to Dawood, Ayub Khan, Majeed and Gopal.
While pronouncing the judgement, the Sessions Judge paid a tribute to the painstaking and thorough investigation by the Officers of the Crime Branch, CID, Tamil Nadu.
The Madras High Court confirmed the death imposed on the accused T.V. Vaitheeswaran, C.R. Parthasarathy, Lakshmanan and Kannan. However, on appeal, the life sentence awarded to the accused Dawood, Ayub Khan was reduced to 7 years’ R.I. In respect of the accused Majeed and C.M. Gopal alias Gopalakrishnan, the sentence was reduced to 5 years’ and 2 years’ R.I. respectively. The Hon’ble High Court also placed on record its appreciation of painstaking investigation conducted by the CB CID.
To eradicate themselves from the gallows, the condemned prisoners petitioned for presidential clemency. As no decision was communicated to them, the condemned prisoners filed writ petitions invoking Article 32 of Constitution of India as a last resort. The Supreme Court upheld their appeal and observed that “We find no impediment in holding that dehumanising factor of prolonged delay in the execution of a sentence of death has the constitutional guarantee that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. The appropriate relief in such a case is to vacate the sentence of death”. Accordingly, the sentence of death awarded to these four murderers was commuted to life sentence.
– (Courtesy: The Tamil Nadu Police Journal.)