Less than 24 hours before its launch, the Kerala Police have put on hold its much-anticipated Youtube 'web series' on the sensational Koodathayi serial murders.
Reason: The concerned police officials came to know about the Kerala High Court's 11-day-old order staying a television series and a movie that delved into the same subject only Tuesday morning.
Koodathayi serial murders refer to the mysterious deaths of six members of a family in Kozhikode district over a period of 14 years by cyanide poisoning. The prime accused Jolly Joseph, who had served cyanide-laced food to the victims, confessed to the murders. Five charge sheets have already been filed at the Thamarassery Judicial First Class Magistrate. Jolly is spending her time at the district prison in Kozhikode after her arrest. Last week, she was hospitalised after an unsuccessful suicide attempt.
The 'web series' was scheduled for launch on Tuesday.
The decision to put the programme on hold was announced by the Kerala Police's Media Centre Deputy Director V P Pramod Kumar when this correspondent asked him about the High Court stay order on the television serial and the movie.
"We are unaware of the stay orders. We will discuss with our legal advisor before deciding on the fresh release dates," he said.
Bid to influence the court?
The web series has given an impression that the police are trying to influence the court by airing a programme on the serial murders for which the charge sheet has just been filed.
It is not clear why the police are producing a programme before the final verdict.
Kerala Police's investigation had faltered many times in the past. One such recent incident was the sensational Soumya rape and murder case. Govindachamy, a one-armed habitual offender from Virudhachalam in Cuddalore, had allegedly thrown Soumya off a moving train and raped her in the woods near the railway track at Vallathol Nagar railway station near Shornur. She succumbed to her injuries while undergoing treatment at the Government Medical College in Thrissur on February 6, 2011. The lower court and the High Court had handed Govindachamy death sentence. But the Supreme Court, on September 15, 2016, commuted the sentence to a seven-year jail term as the prosecution failed to clear the court's doubts.
The police, however, denied the charge that the 'web series' was timed to influence the court. "We are not talking about the accused or the killer. We focus only on the procedures and treatment towards this specific case," he said.
The police have lined up many more sensational cases to be featured in the programme. The popularity of Koodathayi serial murders appears to have prompted the police to use it as the series-launcher.
"We will feature many sensational cases in the programme," Pramod said.
'It is not a web series'
Pramod said the programme should not be termed as web series. "It is a documentary. We haven't dramatised anything on it," he said.
In each programme, police officers would simply explain how they cracked the crime. Hence, the programme on Koodathayi features investigating officer and Kozhikode Rural Superintendent of Police KG Simon.
How did the police get time to act?
Pramod said police personnel on the crime scene were not involved in the programme production.
But how about KG Simon's involvement in the Youtube programme? "We completed the episode on the serial murder when KG Simon was in Thiruvananthapuram recently for an official meeting,” Pradeep said. "We have utilised the services of the nine-member team from the state police media centre," he said.
Who is funding this?
Officials said the programme is not a big-budget project. “We use our own camera and edit suite to produce programmes. We used locations near Thiruvananthapuram. We don't even use make-up or costumes," Pramod said.
Kerala Police have an active presence on social media with more than two lakh followers on Facebook alone. The Youtube channel has about 2,000 followers.
Apart from interacting with the people, the social media handles generate funny videos and trolls every day. "This has helped us develop a rapport with the laypersons," Pramod said.