Return of a DARK RITE?
A sleepy village in Pudukottai district is rocked by a purported case of human sacrifice. The police pin the murder of a four-year-old girl on a soothsayer looking to increase her occult powers. While that remains to be proved, what is clear is that the S
A sense of bewilderment is palpable among residents of Kurumpatti, a sleepy village near Iluppur in Pudukottai district. A fortnight ago, a sprightly four-year-old girl was found murdered, and it is now believed to be a case of human sacrifice, after the arrest of a woman soothsayer for the murder.
The village is still struggling to come to terms with what happened. The girl, who had gone to a shop at the end of a lane where she lived to buy snacks at around 3.30 p.m. on October 25, did not return home. Her parents Vellaisamy, 32, and Murugayi, 27, were busy making arrangements for a marriage in the family, and did not notice her absence. Half an hour later, a neighbour who was returning after grazing goats, found Shalini lying dead in the vicinity of a tree, which the villagers refer to as a local reference to its ‘evil’ nature. She informed the parents.
Left to bleed
Shalini was killed using a common shaving blade. She was left to bleed at the spot, obscured by an overgrowth of shrubs. The blade with blood stains was found near the girl's body, alongside unopened packets of snacks and the chocolate Shalini had bought from the shop. The splatter of blood in the area told investigators that her body had been dragged for some distance.
Is it truly a case of human sacrifice, a practice unheard of in the village, as the Iluppur police is trying to establish?
The semi-literate parents, in a state of shock, had taken the body home without waiting for the police. And that, apparently, complicated the course of investigation.
Vital clue alinja maram,
The blade with blood stains was what provided a vital clue to the police later. The post-mortem conducted at the district headquarters Government Hospital at Pudukottai ruled out sexual assault, the investigators said. But there was more shock in store for the villagers. Chinnapillai, the woman the Iluppur police picked up on suspicion, was none other than a long-time neighbour of the bereaved couple.
Was there any connection between the girl’s death and the body being found near the tree? The investigators began their task from this angle, and started piecing together evidence. “It was only after ruling out rape and murder for gain did we start piecing together evidence that implied the girl had been offered as human sacrifice,” Inspector of Iluppur police station Mangayarkarasi said.
Zeroing in on suspect
It did not take long for the police team to focus their attention on Chinnapillai. The police claimed they had learnt from the people in village that Chinnapillai who had been a soothsayer for long, and of late was into exorcising ghosts. She was also a frequent visitor to graveyards in the dead of night.
The suspicion of the police was that Chinnapillai had killed the girl to propitiate Semmuni, the village deity for whom ancestors of the residents had built a temple at the location where the
now stands. According to a section of the villagers, the credibility of Chinnapillai took a beating a few months ago after the death of Samikannu. After approaching her, he had reportedly fallen ill and was bed-ridden for long, before dying.
Chinnapillai is said to have been anxious to regain the faith that the villagers had reposed in her. The police team surmised that the purpose of the human sacrifice could have been her attempt to enhance her occult powers.
maram Breach of faith alinja
The girl’s parents, who have now shifted to Vellaisamy's native village Nerungalakudi, a few kilometres from Kurumpatti, are willing to concede that the crime could have been committed only by a person known to the family. But they find it difficult to believe that Chinnapillai, a long-time well-wisher, could commit such a crime. It was, in fact, Chinnapillai, who had fixed up the marriage of Murugayi's niece with a boy she knew, they said.
“Nevertheless, the criminal, whoever it is, must be punished severely," a distraught Vellaisamy said.
The police claimed that the inconsistencies in the responses of Chinnapillai during interrogation further strengthened their suspicions. The arrested woman claimed she was in her house between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on the day Shalini died. But, when her mobile phone records were verified, her visit to the scene of crime prior to the purported time of murder was established, police said.
“Chinnapillai had even done a reconnaissance earlier, in preparation,” Balamurugan, Sub-Inspector of Iluppurstation, said. There was a blood stain on the saree she had worn on that day. The police team worked on the evidence and found it to be fresh stain. “There was a cut on the inner side of Chinnapillai's thumb that was probably caused by the blade when the girl struggled while her throat was being split,” Mr. Balamurugan said. She could not offer a plausible explanation.
The police team subsequently seized materials that included a stick used to beat up people supposedly possessed by evil spirits, and a magic wand stained black with
“Since Shalini was known to keep away from strangers, we knew she would have only gone with someone familiar to her. She was taken to the isolated spot by Chinnapillai. We could also establish that Chinnapillai had gone to Shalini's house to get betel leaves and nuts after committing the murder, in an apparent bid to deflect suspicion,” Ms. Mangayarkarasi said.
mai. Early theories
Initially, the Iluppur police suspected it to be a case of rape and murder. Their suspicion fell on a 65-year-old shopkeeper. An old police case (murder charge), registered against him two decades ago, only made matters worse for him. The man who was subjected to a tough inquiry was eventually let off as sexual assault was ruled out by the post-mortem report.
Since there was no possibility of an outsider committing the crime, the police rounded up some of the youth and subjected them to rigorous interrogation. Raju, Mookiah, Vadivel, Tamilsevlam and Selvam, who were among those interrogated, said their only crime was to have been in the village on that day.
Describing the police action as hasty, a village elder Dharmaraj said the police was probably under pressure to fix the accused at the earliest due to the sensitivity of the case.
The Iluppur police said Chinnapillai was arrested last Sunday, after extracting a confession from her to the effect that she had murdered Shalini. She was produced before the court in Tirumayam and remanded in judicial custody.
Chinnapillai's son Subramani, 30, fears that she was browbeaten into admitting the crime. Rubbishing the theory of witchcraft, he said his mother had only been rendering a service to the villagers who were ill and wanted moral support. “The Iluppur police have foisted the case and made her the culprit because of pressure from superiors,” Subramani alleged.
“The entire village knows that my mother is possessed by Pandimuni, the presiding deity of Pandikovil in Madurai. My mother is capable of prophesying only when she is under the influence of Pandimuni, and it has always been only for a positive purpose,” he said.
Disputing Subramani's contention, the investigating officials said they had traced the calls Chinnapillai had made to her supposed clients over the last month. “We could establish that there were umpteen requests to Chinnapillai from those who wanted to settle scores with people within their families through witchcraft. Clearly she was not using her witchcraft just for positive things,” Inspector Mangayarkarasi said.
Since Shalini was known to keep away from strangers, we knew she would have only gone with someone familiar to her Mangayarkarasi Inspector of police
The entire village knows that my mother is possessed by Pandimuni, the presiding deity of Pandikovil Subramani son of accused Chinnapillai
In the absence of a specific law to deal with the death of Shalini, the Iluppur police booked the offender under Section 302. According to police sources, promulgation of a special law, as in Maharashtra and Karnataka, will instil fear in the minds of black magic practitioners.
Legal experts say Section 508 of the IPC, the only available provision to deal with black magic, is not a strong deterrent. The punishment is imprisonment for a term that could extend to one year, or fine, or both if the inducing person causes the victim to believe that he will be rendered an object of divine displeasure if the latter does not follow the former’s instruction.