Ayesha murder: Has justice been done?

Hyderabad, September 30: On December 27, 2007, first-year B Pharmacy student of Nimrah College, 19-year-old Syeda Ayesha Meera was found murdered in her hostel at Ibrahimpatnam. The naked body of the victim was found in the bathroom.

One of her legs was tied to a tap with a rope.

The words — H Prema Chiruta — were written on her bosom with a skecth pen and a letter purportedly written by the killer recovered from her room.

Blood was splattered on the bed and stains were found on the aisle leading to the bathroom. Eight girl students were staying in the hostel but none heard any sound or commotion on the night she was killed. What surprised the police was that the victim was raped after being murdered which led the police to believe that it was an act of a necrophile.

Hours after the ghastly incident, the police picked up three suspects, Fareed, Badri and Kishore, all natives of Tenali but they were let off after days of interrogation.

It was alleged that the clues at the scene of offence were tampered with. Ayesha’s father Syed Iqbal Basha is a teacher at the Aravinda Vidyalaya in Tenali while her mother Shamshad Begum is a lecturer in the women’s college at Repalle.

Political controversy

Then municipal administration minister Koneru Ranga Rao offered to quit politics after some reports suggested that his grandson Koneru Satish could be behind Ayesha’s murder. He vehemently denied the allegations.

The TDP demanded that the murder case be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The party also took up state-wide agitations alleging that the investigation in the case was getting delayed due to ‘pressure’ from the government.

With the murder turning into a political controversy, then chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy expressed displeasure over the way the issue was handled by the Vijayawada police. On the other hand, Ayesha’s parents repeatedly expressed doubts over the way the investigation was being carried out.

More than 35 days after the murder, TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu alleged that Rajasekhara Reddy had advised Ayesha’s mother to compromise in the case. Meanwhile, the AP State Human Rights Commission stepped in and SHRC Registrar Vittal Rao was directed to proceed to Vijayawada and conduct a probe into the incident. Several agitations, demonstrations were staged, particularly by the TDP with regard to the case. In the Assembly, there was a verbal spat between YSR and Naidu.

An act of a necrophile?

After questioning several persons, including the hostel cook, the police then began probing the involvement of a necrophile (a person who has an erotic attraction towards corpses).

The necrophilia theory gained credence as the culprit, in a note left behind, mentioned that he went to Ayesha with ‘full of lust’. Making the case even more complex was the victim’s autopsy report. Though doctors made no specific mention that she was raped, they said semen was found on her private parts. They said that the culprits had spent quite sometime on the premises after killing Ayesha. There were no major external injuries except one on her lips and doctors concluded that she died due to internal brain haemorrage.

The pillow was soaked in blood and this meant that from the time of her death till the pillow got soaked, the killer was present there and later he dragged the body to the toilet, a few yards away. No weapon was found at the scene.

‘Chiruta’ angle probed

A psychiatrist analysed the killer’s handwriting. The killer appeared to have taken much ‘care’ while scribbling the word ‘chiruta’ and drawing a heart on the victim’s body as he had to press the pen hard. The handwriting didn’t match with any of the suspects, including the cook and the hostel warden.

Some police officials actually watched the movie ‘Chiruta’, starring Chiranjeevi’s son Ram Charan Tej, to ascertain whether some scenes inspired the killer. The scene was reconstructed in the same room where Ayesha was murdered and it was found that the killer spent nearly 15 minutes in the room.

Gory act reconstructed

The killer entered the room, the doors of which were open (a common practice among inmates). He spotted the victim sleeping close to the window. As it was a chilly night, Ayesha covered her face with a quilt. The killer picked up a hard object and hit her on the head leading to multiple fractures of the skull and instant death. As blood started oozing out of the victim’s ear and nose, the culprit picked up the body with the quilt still on and dragged it along the corridor towards the toilet. Halfway, he stopped for a while, quite close to another room where 20 inmates were sleeping. He then undressed the victim at this place – the sleuths found blood spill here. The assailant then carried the body to the toilet, about 40 feet from the room. Near the entrance of the toilet, he tied a leg of the victim to the tap using a towel and then let himself loose on the victim before escaping. Police found a photo of Aurobindo near her bed. Though a Muslim, Ayesha used to chant devotional songs of Lord Venkateswara and was wellversed with Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Quite an expensive probe

Over a 100 policemen have been in the field and endless hours went into interrogating several dozen suspects.

Eighty other policemen sitting in the offices racked their brains to solve the case. Nearly Rs 25 lakh spent on the case for various things including DNA tests, polygraph, graphology and travel of the sleuths.

Lending a helping hand to the Vijayawada police were the sleuths of the CID and the AP Forensic Science Laboratory. Teams conducted house-to-house searches, some kept surveillance on the Nimrah College where Ayesha studied, some in Tenali looked at the possibility of someone from the victim’s native place behind the murder.

Minister’s grandson lies

A polygraph test conducted on K Satish, grandson of then municipal administration minister Koneru Ranga Rao, showed that he ‘tried to supress some facts’.

Three questionnaires each comprising at least 20 queries was prepared. When asked whether he knew the building owner, Satish replied in the negative but the graphs showed he was lying.

He also denied hiding any facts related to the case and the graphs again indicated that he was lying.

YSR seeks CBI inquiry

Chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy sought a CBI inquiry into the murder to prevent the opposition parties from gaining political mileage out of the incident.

Then DGP SSP Yadav wrote to the Centre for a CBI inquiry, which was ultimately rejected on the grounds that it was not a case which had inter-state ramifications and was purely local in nature. On the other hand, National Women’s Commission member Nirmala Venkatesh recommended narco analysis test on hostel warden Padma and her husband I Krishna. She also wanted Ibrahimpatnam MPP Cheruku Madhava Rao to undergo the test as she was told that the warden had called him before reporting the incident to the police.

‘Laddu’, the first suspect

The police projected one Upendra Singh of Jagityal in Karimnagar district, an accused in a theft case, as the ‘prime suspect’ in the murder. However, they could find no evidence of his involvement.

Later, they brought into picture Gurvinder Singh Anand alias ‘Laddu’ as the accused. His abnormal ways of indulging in sexual acts had what landed Laddu in police net. Investigators referred to him as a mysogynist, one who hates women. Laddu had been visiting several sex workers in and around Vijayawada and police said that he used to derive pleasure seeing his partner in severe pain. However, they couldn’t find any evidence against him and he was let off after much drama.

Satyam Babu in picture

Finally, the police took into custody Pidatala Satyam Babu of Anasagaram village near Nandigama on August 16, 2008, even as his family and villagers protested.

He always appeared calm and composed and found himself at the centre of the investigation. Police claimed that he wreaks havoc on women due to his abnormal sexual fantasies. Satyam, police claims, told the sleuths that ‘something happens to him when he sees girls, especially when they are alone in the night’.

Police claimed his behaviour was erratic and his wife left him. His blood, handwriting samples and footprints were taken and a DNA test conducted. Police claimed that the samples had biologically matched with the DNA profile of Satyam Babu. Quite strangely, though Satyam Babu found it difficult to even walk, on May 22 this year, police claimed that he ‘escaped’ from an 11-member police escort while being shifted to Vijayawada sub-jail from Hyderabad. But he was ‘caught’ by afternoon. Ayesha’s mother termed the escape story a ‘drama’ enacted by the police. During trial, Satyam was diagnosed to be suffering from GB Syndrome and being treated at NIMS for the past two years.