TWO MONTHS after his arrest, the prime accused in the murder of 24-year-old IT professional Swathi on a railway platform here allegedly committed suicide on Sunday at the high-security Puzhal Central Prison in the outskirts of Chennai.
Police and prison sources said P Ramkumar, a 24-year-old graduate in mechanical engineering, killed himself by biting a live electric wire concealed in a switch board. However, his lawyer expressed doubts, saying Ramkumar had no reason to commit suicide.
While a prison official, who did not want to be named, said the incident took place around 4.45 pm near the kitchen, another senior officer said he committed suicide near the prison hospital. Sources at Royapettah Government Hospital, where Ramkumar was taken, said he was brought dead. They said there were electric shock injuries on his left cheek and chest.
A senior prison officer said an internal probe has been ordered. He refused to comment on whether the incident was caught on CCTV camera.
Ramkumar was arrested on July 1 from his village in Sengottai near Tirunelveli. During the arrest, he suffered deep injuries on his neck. While the police said he had attempted suicide at the time of his arrest, his family members alleged that there was an attempt to kill him.
Son of a daily wage labourer, Ramkumar had shifted to Chennai in April 2016 after completing his mechanical engineering programme. On June 24, he allegedly hacked Swathi to death at the Nungambakkam railway station — a murder that shook Chennai. According to the police, Ramkumar, who used to work at a shop, had been stalking Swathi for several weeks before the murder.
Based on the police claim that he tried to slit his throat before arrest, Ramkumar was given counselling at the Puzhal prison after he was remanded in judicial custody. “He was neither depressed nor did his counsellors reported any suicidal tendencies,” a prison official told The Indian Express.
Doubting the suicide theory, Ramkumar’s lawyer S P Ramraj said, “Biting a live wire in a switch box may be the most foolish theory from the police. He was fine when I met him on Saturday, he hoped he would get justice.”
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“Despite being his lawyer, the police did not allow me to see his body even after three hours. Some people in the prison told me that he died around 9.30 am on Sunday. It was not suicide. There should be a probe on whether it was a conspiracy by the police after a jail warden, who had been protecting him in the prison from threats, got transferred on Saturday,” he said.
Thol Thirumavalavan, the leader of Dalit party VCK, demanded that the government immediately hand over the case to the CBI to find the truth behind Swathi’s murder and Ramkumar’s death in prison.
CPM state secretary G Ramakrishnan demanded an inquiry by a sitting high court judge to find out if it was a murder or suicide. “How can he commit suicide in prison? What were the jail authorities doing? Was protection given to him? This has to be probed by a sitting HC judge,” Ramakrishnan said.