In a joint operation, Vijayawada Police and the Delhi Police Crime Branch arrested four contract killers — residents of Delhi’s Kalyanpuri and Trilokpuri—and three others for their involvement in the killing of three members of a family on the outskirts of Vijayawada on September 24. The incident had sent shockwaves through Andhra Pradesh as the contract shooters had chased and intercepted the taxi in which the victims were travelling on the busy NH-16 and pumped them with bullets, killing all three on the spot.
The dead men were identified as G Nageswara Rao, his son G Maraiah and nephew P Maraiah.
Police said the contract shooters were hired by two Vijayawada-based brothers — Butham Sriniwas Rao and London-based Buthum Govinda. They were seeking revenge for the murder of their brother, hotelier Durgarao. He was hacked to death on April 6, allegedly by those travelling in the taxi. Police had earlier arrested the trio in connection with Butham Durgarao’s murder. In fact, the three men had arrived at Gannavaram airport near Vijayawada the day they were murdered to appear in a court for a hearing in Durgarao murder case.
“The contract money of Rs 1 crore had allegedly been paid by a London-based member of the Butham family,” Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Ravindra Yadav said on Tuesday in Delhi.
Vijayawada Deputy Commissioner of Police Tafseer Iqbal said the Butham brothers approached their contacts living in Kalyanpuri to hire the contract killers.
“They thought that if they hired someone in Vijayawada or Andhra, police would crack the case. So they tapped some people in the Telugu community in Delhi,’’ Iqbal said.
During their investigation, the Vijayawada police found the involvement of some persons in Delhi and contacted the Crime Branch. In a joint operation, the seven accused were arrested from Delhi over the past few days. They are Partap Singh (35), Dharamveer (32), Nitin (27), Neeraj (22), Manjeet Singh (35), Satish Kumar (27), Pankaj (22).
Partap, police said, is the main sharpshooter and he had made two attempts — in April and June — to eliminate the three. In April, just days after the murder of Durgarao, Partap had gone to Vijayawada where the three were staying at a hotel. Pratap told police that he could not fire at them because of the tight security at the hotel. In June, he waited outside the Vijayawada court where the three were to appear, but as the magistrate was on leave that day, the three did not attend court.
Police also arrested Shiva Kumar, who negotiated the deal for Butham brothers . “The killers arrived by flight in Vijayawada lay in wait. When the victims arrived from Mumbai to go to court, Butham Srinivas Rao identified the targets and left. The killers chased their vehicle in another SUV and shot them,’’ DCP Iqbal said.
Andhra highway murders: Police hunt on for absconding accused
The Buthum brothers took help from Delhi-based Andhra Pradesh resident Sirigiri Chinnasrinivas alias Shiva, who contacted Ombir, a resident of Kalyanpuri. Ombir along with his associates Pankaj, Satish, Manjeet — all resdients of Kalyanpuri — planned the conspiracy with Chinnasrinivas. For this, they hired five contract killers Dharamvir, Pratap Singh, Neeraj, Nitin Singh and Anuj. They were joined by P Babu, a resident of West Godavari in Andhra Pradesh. It was the five contract killers and P Babu who shot the three men,” JCP (Crime) Ravindra Yadav said.
Police said Chinnasrinivas and Ombir are currently absconding. Chinnasrinivas, who is also an astrologer, is a related to the Butham family which has a house in Kalyanpuri. Chinnasrinivas was tasked to hire contract killers by the Butham brothers. He was allegedly paid Rs 3 crore but he used only Rs 1 crore for the job. Police said they are on the lookout for Chinnasrinivas, Ombir and another contract killer Sanjay, who is also absconding. While Partap was paid Rs 10 lakh for the job, the others involved in the shootout and conspiracy were paid Rs 8-10 lakh each.
One of the brothers, Butham Srinivas Rao, was reportedly picked up by police from New Delhi along with his friend Chinna Ramesh. All the accused are being taken to Vijayawada on transit warrants.
Police said that both families are from tribes in a village in West Godavari district. They struck gold through astrology and have others business interests as well. A few years ago, late Butham Durgarao’s daughter had eloped with Gandham Nageshwararao’s son, which further deepened their rivalry. In the recent municipal elections, the two families had also contested against each other.
HOW CASE WAS CRACKED
In April, days after Butham Durgarao was murdered, Srinivas Rao and Govindu purchased the Mahindra SUV and a motorcycle for the contract killers to follow the three members of the Gandham family. Sources said that the two bought the vehicles in their names. The CCTV cameras on the highway had captured the registration number of the two vehicles. The Vijayawada police had retrieved the CCTV footage of the five contract killers who, according to the hotel staff, were north Indians. The photograph was sent to various state police forces in north India. A crime branch informer helped police identify the five with the help of another informer.
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