Kochi: Nearly eight years after the murder of Harihara Varma, the High Court on Wednesday upheld the double life imprisonment awarded to the accused, but the Kerala Police still have no clue on the real identity of the murder victim.
Harihara Varma, a gemstone dealer, was murdered at a house in Thiruvananthapuram in December 2012. The entire investigation and the trial process have been wrapped up but the Kerala Police have no clear answer for two questions – Who is Harihara Varma? How did he procure such a rare collection of gemstones?
This is a rare case in the history of Kerala Police. The police closed the case without finding any records on the person named as Harihara Varma, his native place, relatives or any clue about his personal life.
The police do not even know if Harihara Varma is his actual name. His wife, a former government official, too had no clue about his real identity. His passport and ID card were found to be fake. Even Varma's phone records of three years failed to throw up any lead.
While trying to sell gemstones, Harihara Varma was killed at his friend advocate Haridas' house at Vattiyoorkavu on December 24, 2012.
Varma, who claimed that he was part of the Poonjar royal family, told everyone that the gemstones were part of his family inheritance.
The accused gave alcohol-laced fruit juice and then strangled Varma to death, as per the prosecution case.
Assistant Commissioner K E Baiju, and R Prathapan Nair, who was the Peroorkada CI, led the special investigation into the case.
With the help of the cyber cell, all five accused were nabbed from Bengaluru. The police recovered all the mainour, including the stolen gemstones from the accused.
A total of 72 witnesses were cross-examined during trial. And 244 documents and 142 mainours were also presented. Thalassery natives Jithesh and Rakhil; Vadakara native Ajish; and Ragesh of Chalakudy were convicted of murder and conspiracy. Coorg native Joseph and advocate Haridas were acquitted. Appeals were filed against this verdict. A division bench, comprising Justice A Hariprasad and N Anil Kumar, on Wednesday upheld the verdict of the Thiruvananthapuram sessions court. However, fifth accused Joseph, slapped with conspiracy charges, was acquitted over lack of evidence.
The HC also rejected an appeal submitted by the government against the acquittal of sixth accused and Varma's friend Haridas. Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the HC considered the appeal in open court and gave its verdict.
Who is Harihara Varma?
Even his wife was not aware of his actual identity. Varma had married government employee from Thiruvananthapuram, in 2001. Varma had told her that he was a member of the royal family and that his father's name was Bhaskara Varma.
After Varma was murdered, reports emerged that he was part of the Mavelikkara royal family. However, they rejected the reports. The police too said that Varma was not part of any royal family. But then questions were raised over his identity.
Based on his wife's statements that Varma had earlier stayed at Coimbatore, the police made enquiries there but found the address to be fake.
There were also reports that Varma had a second wife in Palakkad.
Varma claimed that as a member of the royal family trust he had usufructuary rights over the royal assets. He carried out his deals by showing documents to back these claims.
Varma's documents included a passport with the fake address near the race course club at Coimbatore and father's name as Bhaskara Varma. Also, an identity card procured by submitting fake documents of the Gujarati school at Mattanchery.
The police made enquiries with various royal families but could not find anyone named Bhaskara Varma and his son Harihara Varma.
How did Varma get hold of rare gemstones?
Varma was trying to sell 3,647 gemstones, including an emerald figurine of Ganapathy and emerald chains.
He sought crores of rupees for his rare gemstones’ collection, that included chrysoberyl, emerald, and alexandrite. The police had found 65 pearls, 73 emerald, 22 chrysoberyl, four ruby, five sapphire, and 29 yellow sapphire.
The mining and geology department report said that it was not possible to determine the value of these precious stones found in his possession.
The police investigation could not identify from where Varma procured these gemstones.
Varma owned house and property at Attingal, and along the Palakkad-Coimbatore bypass.
Ancient idols of deities, that are usually found at royal palaces, were retrieved from his Palakkad house by the police team led by CI Sheen Tharayil.
None came forward, claiming to be Varma's relatives, during any stage of the investigation.
Varma had also reportedly carried out deals outside the state, but no further information could be unearthed.