'Your acts deserve capital punishment,' court tells Latvian woman murder convicts. Sentence tomorrow

Accused Umesh and Udayan | Photo: Manorama

Thiruvananthapuram: The Thiruvananthapuram First Additional Sessions Court on Monday asked the accused in the Latvian woman's murder case whether they know their actions deserve capital punishment. 

The court will announce the quantum of their punishment tomorrow, though it was earlier reported to be pronounced today. 

The court on Friday had found both Udayan (27) and Umesh(31) guilty of all major charges slapped on them, including murder, rape, destruction of evidence and the use of psychotropic substances to trap the victim.

The accused and their lawyers requested the court to let them live considering their age, but when asked whether they regret their actions, they remained silent. 

The victim's sister, who had identified the body and was the first to depose before the court during the trial could not watch the court proceedings live on Friday owing to a technical snag.

The court, following an application moved by the Latvian Embassy, had allowed the victim's sister to watch the proceedings online, a rare instance of an Indian court granting a foreigner access to functioning.

The trial began on June 1, more than four years after the Latvian tourist's body was found inside an obscure mangrove forest at Thiruvallam, near Kovalam.

The body was found hanging from a tree, the feet touching the ground. It was in such a decomposed state that her head had virtually severed from her body, and beyond recognition.

The remains were found nearly one-and-a-half months after the victim went missing from her Ayurveda retreat at Pothencode, near Thiruvananthapuram, on May 14, 2018.

The prosecution case was that - Udayan (27) and Umesh (31) - had lured the victim to the mangrove forest, drugged her and then sexually assaulted her.

It was argued that when she resisted, the two men strangled her to death, and hung her from a tree; possibly why the head had severed from the putrefied body.

Post-mortem conducted on her body revealed blood clots in her brain, a sign of strangulation.

The victim's undergarments were also missing, suggesting that her body was violated.

It was after nearly two months of the probe that the police team managed to reach the mangrove forest.

One of the accused is a tourist guide and the other, a local drug peddler.

During the trial that spread over five months, the prosecution examined 30 witnesses.

While 28 stood by their earlier statements, two were declared hostile. One was a textile shop owner at Beemapally near Kovalam who had earlier testified that the victim's jacket was brought to his shop.

During trial, he denied having any memory of such an occurrence.

PG Asok Kumar, who was the assistant chemical examiner at the Chemical Examiner’s Laboratory, Thiruvananthapuram, was the second witness whose statement was seen as a setback to the prosecution case.

He told the court that drowning could also have been the cause of the tourist's death.

Asok said that the diatoms (microalgae in water bodies) found in the victim's bone marrow matched with the microorganisms in the water samples collected from the area.

He said diatoms could be detected in the bone marrow of the victim if she was either force-fed the water or drowned.

Reason why he did not rule out drowning.

However, Dr Sasikala, the forensic surgeon who did the autopsy, testified that clear signs of potentially fatal physical assault were found on the victim's body. Even Dr Sasikala could not confirm rape.

Asok had earlier told the court that the spermatozoa of the accused could not be found in the victim's body.

He said the genetic material could be picked up from a dead body even a year after death. Dr Sasikala had echoed him, saying it was difficult to establish rape.

During her testimony, Ilze had said that she and her sister came to Kerala for a long-haul Ayurveda treatment on February 3, 2018.

She said her sister had successfully undergone treatment for depression in Ireland.

But the doctor in Ireland still wanted her sister to submit herself to a comprehensive Ayurveda therapy.

The victim went missing on March 14, more than a month after the treatment began.

Early that morning, the sisters were supposed to attend a yoga class in the hospital.

But the victim said she had a headache and asked Ilza to go alone. When she returned, her elder sister was not to be seen.

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