M Jaishankar alias Shankar, a prisoner who allegedly committed suicide in Bengaluru this week, had earned notoriety as a psychopathic serial killer, convicted or facing trial for the rape and murder of 20 women on highways around Tamil Nadu and Karnataka between 2008 and 2012 while working as a truck driver.
Shankar, 38, whose crimes were the subject of a Kannada film, Pyscho Shankar, died in a hospital after he had allegedly slashed his neck with a shaving blade in Bengaluru Central Prison early Tuesday.
Most of the crimes in which Shankar’s name figured took place in Tamil Nadu. What gave him added notoriety in Karnataka was his escape from the Bengaluru prison on September 1, 2013, over a year after he had been sent there. He was tracked down five days later.
During his escape, Shankar had fallen from a 30-foot wall surrounding the Bengaluru prison, breaking his spine. He was bedridden in recent times and had slipped into depression on account of his immobility, prison officials said following his death.
Shankar had earned a reputation for terrorising women along highways in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. At the time of his death, he had been sentenced in three cases in Tamil Nadu and was under trial for 12 more cases — nine in Tamil Nadu and three in Karnataka.
“He raped and killed women, or killed and raped. He was a psychopath,” said a senior police official in Karnataka who was involved with tracking down Shankar following his 2013 jailbreak. Shankar initially chose sex workers on the highways as his victims but later began targeting women randomly, police said.
Hailing from Konasamudram village in Edapadi taluk of Salem district in Tamil Nadu, Shankar worked many years as a truck driver and carried out his crimes during his journeys. Psycho Shankar, released last year, looked at Shankar’s 2013 jailbreak and subsequent capture as a pivot to recount his crime life.
Much of his early crimes were committed in Tamil Nadu. The killing of a 39-year-old policewoman, a constable, in August 2009 first drew attention to Shankar. He was arrested in October 2009 and lodged in Coimbatore central prison. After this arrest, he told police of his involvement in as many as 13 murders around Tamil Nadu.
In 2011, Shankar escaped from police while he was being taken from the Coimbatore prison to a court in Dharmapuri. He dodged two constables who were escorting him at the Salem bus stand. One of the police constables committed suicide soon after.
Following this escape from Tamil Nadu, Shankar is alleged to have carried out a series of murders in Karnataka, especially in Chitradurga-Bellary region. He was arrested again on May 5, 2011, after he attempted to attack a woman working in a field in the Elagi village in the Chitradurga area. The woman raised an alarm, bringing her husband and other workers to her rescue. They caught Shankar while he was trying to flee on a motorcycle. They handed him over to Chitradurga police.
Shankar was shifted to Bengaluru central prison on March 14, 2012. In late August 2013, he feigned illness and got himself admitted to the prison hospital. On the intervening night of August 31 and September 1, he fled scaling the 30-foot perimeter wall. The rope he was using to descend the wall reportedly gave way, resulting in the fall that injured his spine.
Injured, he escaped without prison officials detecting his absence until the morning hours. A special police team was set up to track him down. The team found that Shankar had developed a friendship with a prisoner, Abdul Mujassim Pasha, who had been jailed in a dowry harassment case. Police tracked down Pasha, who had been released before Shankar’s escape. They found that Jaishankar had contacted Pasha after his escape and had sought his help to get a motorcycle. Police found that Shankar was hiding in a shed, a few kilometres from the prison, and Pasha led the team to the hideout on September 6, five days after the escape.
“We were afraid that if he got to the highway, it would be difficult to find him. Luckily for us, he was still in the vicinity of the prison and this helped us arrest him again,” said a senior police official.