The September 24 shootout at Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh, in which three members of the affluent Gandham family were shot dead, was planned five months ago, Partap Singh, the alleged sharpshooter from East Delhi who was arrested on Monday, told police.
G Nageswara Rao, his son G Maraiah and nephew P Maraiah were travelling in a taxi on the busy NH-16 when their car was chased and intercepted and the three gunned down.
Partap also revealed that he had flown to Vijayawada twice in the last few five months to carry out the killings but failed both times. The killings, police said, was the latest in a long-running feud between two families — Gandham and Butham — of West Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh.
Singh along with six others were arrested by a joint team of the Delhi Police Crime Branch and Vijayawada police. The raids in Delhi were led by Inspector Vinay Tyagi from the crime branch.
Investigating officers said Partap was an acquaintance of Butham Durgarao, who was allegedly hacked to death by members of the Gandham family on April 6.
Partap told police that he was lodged in Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai for six months and there he met several inmates who allegedly worked for Durgarao.
After coming out of jail, he had met Durgarao and also allegedly helped him with some business deals. Earlier this year, when Durgarao was murdered, one of the members of the Butham family, Sirigiri Chinna Srinivas alias Shiva hired Partap to avenge Durgarao’s death.
“Partap had taken money from Durgarao in the past. He told us that because Durgarao was a friend, the murder of the three Gandham family members was also a personal matter. He took Rs 30 lakh for eliminating the Gandham family members,” a police source said.
Five of the seven accused who have been arrested, including Partap, are residents of unauthorised colonies and jhuggis in Kalyanpuri, East Delhi. All of them are on police records. When Partap was contacted by Chinna Srinivas to carry out the murders, he got his gang of five “contract killers” to meet Chinna Srinivas, who has a house in Kalyanpuri. Several meetings to work out a perfect murder supposedly took place at this house and at a local park near Indira Camp in Kalyanpuri.
Two days before the shootout, Chinna Srinivas provided six pistols to Partap and the others during their meeting at Royal Hampi Lodge of Krishna district in AP, police said.
On September 24, after killing the three, the six accused dumped the Mahindra SUV and motorbike they used to chase the victims’ car and fled to Chennai, Tamil Nadu. From there, they took a train to Delhi, police said.
The contract money was paid by London-based Buthum Govindu, the elder brother of Durgarao. Days after Durgarao was murdered, Govindu, police said, left for London after warning villagers that he would return only after all members of the Gandham family are killed. The Andhra Pradesh police will seek Govindu’s extradition.