Prabhu MV, a city-based techie, went missing a day after he drove down to Hyderabad in mid-January. A missing complaint was filed in a police station in the city and subsequently in several police stations along the Hyderabad-Bangalore route. But with police making little headway in tracing Prabhu, the techie’s brother and childhood friends decided to launch their own search. After weeks of painstaking search, what they found shocked them: Prabhu had been brutally murdered by highway thieves and his body burnt. What was worse for the search party was the attitude of the police. They claim they were asked for bribes at every stage.
Prabhu, 37, a director of a software firm in RT Nagar and a resident of Bangalore for the last 16 years, had left for Hyderabad on personal work on January 11. He was to return the next day. He had called his childhood buddy, Biju Sebastian, in Kerala on January 11 but that was the last his friends and family heard from him. Prabhu carried two cellphones, but when his parents and friends tried contacting him, the phones were switched off.
Alarmed, his parents travelled from Calicut, where they reside, to the city and filed a complaint on January 17 in the Subramanyapura police station, the jurisdictional police of Prabhu’s residence near Kanakapura Road. But with the police making little progress in the search, two of Prabhu’s friends, his brother Guruprasad M V and a friend and former colleague, M Prajil, launched their own search.
They drove from Bangalore to Hyderabad, stopping at every police station and hospital along the way to make enquiries on Prabhu. After two trips back and forth, and also checking the roads leading to Tirupati and Kadapa, they decided to check vehicle information at toll booths.
“This was our only way of finding Prabhu,” said Sebastian, a dialysis technician in MES Medical College in Malappuram. “We checked all the nine toll booths on the Bangalore-Hyderabad highway. Records showed Prabhu’s car passed through on January 11 and some even had CCTV clippings of him paying the toll.”
When they checked records of January 12, the Kallur toll booth near Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh had an entry at 10.57 pm, but other booths on the return journey had no entries of his car. The searchers filed a missing complaint with the Nandiyal police station.
“Three days later, a constable from Nandiyal called and asked us to come to the station,” Sebastian said. “He said he had some information. We were very tired, but he insisted that we get there.”
The news was bad. The constable told them that Prabhu’s phones had been tracked and police had summoned two people to the station. Coincidentally, on the same day, the Kurnool police arrested a petty thief with a car that tallied with the description of Prabhu’s vehicle and the police asked Sebastian to inspect it. Although the car had an AP registration, a look at the engine proved beyond doubt that it was indeed Prabhu’s. Kasim, the petty thief, was arrested, but he sidetracked the police, saying he was Prabhu’s friend and was using the car for a while.
Meanwhile, the two people who had purchased Prabhu’s phones revealed one Kasim had sold the phones to them. Their description of Kasim tallied with the man in the custody of Kurnool police. Things then fell into place and when cops questioned Kasim, he admitted to the crime. His accomplice Johny alias Deva was also arrested.
According to the police, Prabhu was on his way back to the city when, near Kurnool, perhaps feeling sleepy, he pulled over to a side road and dozed off. At around 11 pm, two men knocked on the car window and asked Prabhu to step out. They said they were cops. When Prabhu alighted, the men asked him to hand over cash and his ATM card.
Prabhu gave them his ATM card, PIN and his two cellphones. One of the men went to the ATM, but couldn’t withdraw cash. He came back and thrashed Prabhu. After twice giving false PINs, Prabhu was stripped and badly beaten up. He tried to escape and ran for about 200 metres away from the highway, but they caught him and killed him. They then drew petrol from the car and used it to burn the body. A half-burnt body was left in the bushes. All that Guruprasad could salvage to take home to his aged parents were Prabhu’s bones.
“All along we had hope, thinking Prabhu might have met with an accident,” Guruprasad said. “The death was shocking in its brutality. He was tortured, killed and burnt. My parents are inconsolable,” he said.
Police apathy appalling
According to Kurnool police, the investigation has been completed and charges filed against the two culprits. Despite the agony and the pain of losing a dear one, the police apathy was appalling – at every stage they were asked to pay bribes.
“After registering a complaint at Subramanyapura police station, police asked for money to open Prabhu’s house doors,” says Sebastian. “Even the Nandiyal constable who called us demanded Rs 1,000 to give us information. We did what police are supposed to do, but we ended up paying bribes.”