Pathnamthitta: The mobile phone of Chittar native P P Mathai, who allegedly died while in the custody of the forest department in Pathanamthitta last month, is reported to be missing.
Mathai, a farmer, had the phone on him when he was taken into custody by the forest officials. The probe team has found that a call was made from his phone after he was taken away in the vehicle. But the mobile phone went missing after his death, the police have found.
During the police interrogation, the forest officials were not able to give accurate answers about the phone, a crucial piece of evidence. The police suspect that the phone could have been hidden by the forest officials. They had also allegedly tampered with the records after Mathai’s death to save themselves.
The probe team has also not taken in face value the statements of a person named Arun, who claimed to be Mathai's friend. He made statements in favour of the forest department.
The police have not been able to track down two others, who were reportedly taken into custody along with Mathai.
The alleged tampering of the general diary registrar by personnel at the Gurunathanmannu forest office is also under the scrutiny.
Mathai, 41, of Padinjarcheruvu in Kudappana was found dead in a well near his farm on July 28, hours after he was picked up by the forest officials for questioning. He was taken into custody for allegedly damaging a camera installed by the department for animal-spotting.
The department had claimed that the camera was damaged to cover up the waste dumping from his farm.
As per the post-mortem report, Mathai had drowned and that there were no marks of assaults on the body.
However, Mathai's family members alleged that this was a case of custodial death. They claimed that the forest officials assaulted him to death and threw his body into the well. They held protests, seeking justice.
The forest department then transferred seven officials, including the Vadasserikkara Range Officer Venugopal. Two officers of the Chittar Forest Division R Rajesh Kumar and A K Pradeep were also suspended.