Kottayam: ‘Madrasile mon’ (the son in Madras) was a usage that once sent shivers down the spine of people in Kerala. It was the nickname given to Reny George, the main accused in the Karikkan villa murder case.
When he was released in parole while serving a life sentence at the Poojapura central jail for the double murder, Gowri was scared.
Reny was nailed by the witness statement of Manjadi Poothirikadu Malayil Gowri (Gowriamma) and she feared that he would come to seek revenge.
But Reny did not. However, when he met her long after, he asked Gowri for forgiveness for having killed her beloved mistress. He also asked her to pray for his atonement.
Gowriamma, who worked as a maid at the villa of the childless couple and became a part of history by helping the police crack the case, passed away on Thursday at the home of her granddaughter Mini. She was 98.
The Karikkan villa murder case is also a story of a cold-blooded murderer who repented for his actions and later chose a virtuous path.
The murders of KC George (63) and his wife Rachel (Kunjamma, 56), who resided in the villa near the Meenthalakkara temple in Thiruvalla, on October 6, 1980, had shocked Kerala, especially the central Travancore region.
The memories of the double murder committed by ‘Madrasile mon’ and his friends still cause a shudder in the Meenthalakara village.
The childless couple had worked in Kuwait for a long time and had returned to their native land with lakhs in savings. They had little contact with the outside world.
A day after the murder, on October 7, 1980, Gowri found George and Rachel dead when she went to the villa for work. Both were stabbed and Rachel had a knife in her stomach. There were four tea cups on a table.
Rachel's jewellery, George's Rolex watch, tape recorder and money had been stolen.
The police started their investigations. The only clues that they got from the scene of the crime were the vague shoe marks that were imprinted on blood-stained papers lying strewn on the floor.
The police questioned Gowri, who told them that the previous evening when she was about to leave after work, four people had come in a car. Rachel had asked her to prepare tea for the guests and that she herself took it to them. She said Rachel had told her that her ‘Madrasile mon’ (the son from Madras) had come to visit her.
The statement was the strongest clue that the police got in the case — and helped them crack it.
The police found that a relative of the murdered George was studying in Madras — Reny George. Their investigations revealed that Reny, and his friends Hassan Ghulam Mohammed from Mauritius, Gunasekharan from Malaysia and Kiblo Daniel, a Kenyan, were the four culprits.
Reny and Hassan were the first to be arrested. Gunasekharan was in police custody the next day. Kiblo tried his best to escape, but he could not, and he surrendered.
The four were students of aeronautical engineering in Madras, now Chennai. The police found that they were addicted to alcohol and drugs and that they had committed minor thefts to make money.
The police said Reny drove all the way from Chennai to Thirivalla with his friends to kill the couple and steal money.
Clues from foreign shoes
Former DGP Siby Mathews, who led the probe, recalls that the turning point in the case came when the police realised that the suspects had worn foreign-made shoes. The design of the shoes’ heels had never before been seen in Kerala, he said.
Almost all police officials involved in the investigation felt that the murder was the job of professional killers. As they were looking for the fingerprints of the killers, Mathews remembers telling them that the murders were not committed by professionals but by youths who liked to show off.
“The shoe marks found on the blood-stained papers led to the arrest of Reny George on the 10th day after the murders. The couple was killed in October 1980 in Thiruvalla. I was the Chengannur ASP at the time,” Mathews said.
“I was the in charge of the investigations and it was supervised by the then SP T P Gopinath,” he said.
“I took a picture of the shoe marks imprinted on the papers and showed it to every footwear shop in the area but realised that shoes of that particular design were not sold in the region. Vishnu Potti, who was then the chief of the forensic science lab, examined the shoe marks. I told the SP that I suspected that the shoes were foreign-made,” he said.
“Meanwhile, the house maid, Gowri, was questioned by the police. She said that the couple had told her that their ‘son’ would come to meet them from Chennai (then known as Madras). Then the investigations shifted to Chennai and Reny was arrested. We also found the shoes from his residence. He told the police that he did not discard the shoes because they were expensive,” Mathews said.
From drugs to the virtuous path
On January 1, 1982, the Kottayam Sessions Court sentenced the accused to life imprisonment. On March 21, 1983, the High Court upheld the verdict. Reny, Gunasekharan and Mohammed were lodged in the Poojappura Central Prison. The Kenyan, Kiblo, was shifted to the Tihar Jail in Delhi.
Their sentence ended in June 1995. By August that year, Ghulam Muhammad, Gunasekharan and Kiblo had returned to their respective countries.
The main accused, Reny George, started repenting his actions while serving the jail term itself. He would spread the gospel while on parole. When he was released after 14 years and nine months in jail, Reny was a completely changed person.
During the first six years of his jail term, however, Reny was completely into drugs. He later testified that there were gangs that would bring drugs to the Poojapura jail and that it was done with the knowledge of jail officials.
The accused in the Ettumanoor idol theft case, Stephen, Captain Jose, a well-know film producer… the list of his fellow prisoners was long.
Prisoners who went out on parole would return with the money for drugs.
It was Reny’s turn when he was released on his first parole. He returned with Rs 60,000 that he got by threatening the producer of the film ‘Madrasile mon’, which told the story of the Karikkan villa murders. A prison official took half of that amount.
In 1987, when he came out on parole, he planned to rob a cooperative bank in Thiruvalla. At home, while he was fine-tuning the gas cutter he intended to use to break open the safe at the bank, a bearded stranger came looking for him.
When he asked Reny to accompany him to a place, Reny thought the bearded man was inviting him to be a part of a robbery. He went along, and the two arrived at a prayer hall!
Reny felt angry, but he did not go back. While in that prayer group, Reny said he felt something changing within himself.
His fellow prisoners who were waiting for him to return with the money from the bank got furious when they found just a bible in his bag. Reny just sighed. After the next parole, he returned as a married man. His wife Tina was a Mangalore native working as a nurse in Bahrain.
Tina had married him in the belief that a killer’s mind can change. Her belief was not mistaken.
After his jail sentence, Reny started a new life with Tina in Bangalore, now Bengaluru.
Later, along with Tina, he started a shelter in Bengaluru for the children of prisoners.
Three police officials who were part of the investigations into the case — T P Gopinath, SP; A K Acharya, CI; Abdul Karim, SI, are no more.
Manjadi Poothirikadu Gowri, who became part of history by providing the biggest clue for solving the murder case with her ‘Madrasile mon’ statement, is also no more.
Karakkan villa is now a prayer house. Gospel for Asia bought the house and property a few years ago. Messages of virtue and righteousness emanate from the house that had witnessed two murders.
Siby Mathews, who led the investigations into the case, said that Reny had once come to meet him while he was out on parole. “When we met, he just said, ‘May god bless you’,” Mathews said. He said he was left speechless.
When the story of Reny’s repentance was released in the form of an audio-visual CD, the first copy was received by Mathews.