MUNNAR: As he sat in the car watching Munnar’s misty hills blur past, honeymooner Anantharaman playfully turned his mobile phone on Vidyalakshmi, his bride of eight days, clicking a photo of her intently messaging someone on her own mobile. He could not have known that the SMS going out was his death warrant.
Minutes later, as he lay on the grassy meadow flanking the tranquil quiet of the Kundala lake, head on his wife’s lap and lazily aiming the camera slung from his neck at the scenery, Anantharaman may not have heard the footfalls. Or seen the two men appearing from the mist-covered thickets behind. Seconds later he lay writhing under them, the nylon strap of his camera biting deep as they strangulated him with it.
His wife stood quietly watching his body go limp and the killers placed the body back on her lap. Vidyalakshmi then took out and handed her heavy necklace to one of the killers. She waited for the two men to vanish, and ran screaming the other way. Someone, she told the villagers, just robbed her and killed her husband.
Both belonging to a suburban Chennai, Anantharaman, a 30-year-old assistant manager with a Chennai firm was distantly related to 24-year-old Vidyalakshmi, a medical transcriptionist in Chennai. Her family got Vidyalakshmi wedded to him preventing her marrying a local autorickshaw driver, Anand, a childhood classmate with whom she had been having an affair for many years.
Vidyalakshmi is an Iyengar Brahmin from an upper-middle class background and Anand, her paramour, a Christian. Though Anand advised eloping before the marriage, Vidyalakshmi refused saying it would shock her mother who has hypertension. Instead, they decided to quietly do away with Anantharaman, and unite.
She planned the honeymoon itinerary up to fine details with her husband, and passed it on to Anand. When the couple got on the train at Chennai for Thrissur on the night of June 16, 24-year-old Anand and his friend, 21-year-old Anpuraj, were on the same train. Vidyalakshmi kept in touch with them on Anand’s mobile. When they got down to leave by road for Guruvayoor and check into a hotel, the men followed and took an adjacent room but could not accomplish the mission in the pilgrim town’s crowded hotel.
The couple reached Munnar the next night and checked into a resort they had booked, while Anand and his accomplice checked into a seedy lodge in town. The next morning, Anantharaman took his wife out for a boat ride and by noon they were being driven to the Kundala lake. Anand abruptly realized that his mobile phone was out of range, and so he borrowed the mobile of a local autodriver, Anbazhagan, whom he had hired to take him around town. Vidyalakshmi kept constantly SMS-ing her movements into this borrowed mobile. The last SMS said: "In Kundala Lake".
The killers, meanwhile, got down at some distance from the Lake and asked Anbazhagan to wait, walking off into the thicket. They re-emerged from the mission, got in and asked the driver to take them back to the lodge. Anbazhagan, however, happened to know Tamil and was listening to his two nervous passengers talking animatedly. He escorted them to their lodge room, locked the room from outside and promptly called the police. By then, the cops had come to know of the murder.
‘‘She first told us that her husband was killed a few metres away when he went into the thicket to urinate. She said the killers talked in Malayalam and had their faces covered, pushed the body on to her and yanked the chain off her neck before leaving. We noticed she had no bruises on the neck or anywhere, and the blood stain did not look natural either,’’ says K T Krishnan Kutty, Circle Inspector of Police at Munnar.
The clincher, however, were the mobile phones with the damning SMSs : Vidyalakshmi’s, Anand’s and auto driver Anbazhagan’s.
The police say the three have since told them all the details. They are now in judicial remand at the Devikulam subjail, while the cops are busy working on the chargesheet.
The town gave Anbazhagan a public felicitation, and the district police has organized another function on Sunday to reward him.