Elanthoor, a slumberous small town in District Pathanamthitta of Kerala, is stunned by two gruesome murders, the plot for which had begun with a criminal mastermind’s fake Facebook profile and a couple’s greed. On 11 October, police arrested Bhagaval Singh, a traditional healer and Haiku poet, and his wife Laila for allegedly killing two women on the advice of one Mohammed Shafi alias Rasheed. The Muslim occultist said the “human sacrifice ritual”, which included the consumption of the victims’ flesh, would bring the killers money and prosperity.
According to several Malayalam news channels, Singh is a CPI(M) branch committee member in the Elanthoor town of Pathanamthitta. However, the party's politburo member Subhashini Ali said, "I have found out that he is NOT a party member. Has never been. After the 2021 state assembly elections, it is believed that he welcomed the LDF victory…"
Police have arrested Rasheed too.
Laila (59), the second wife of Bhagaval Singh (69), ran into a Facebook post that was inviting “those who are interested in prosperous life”. The couple explored the post while Singh, popularly known as ‘Vaidyan’ among the locals, received a friend request from a certain Sreedevi. The stranger claimed to be a fan of his Haiku poetry.
Haiku is Japanese for a poem of 17 syllables that mostly does not rhyme.
Singh and ‘Sreedevi’ would often chat. After some time passed, the person masquerading as a woman convinced the healer-cum-poet to reach out to a ‘siddhan’ (occult practitioner) named Rasheed from Perumbavoor in Ernakulam to gain unlimited wealth.
This ‘Sreedevi’ was none other than the Muslim occultist using a fake profile, which neither Bhagaval Singh nor Laila had suspected. After the ‘introduction’, ‘Sreedevi’ receded while Rasheed became a regular visitor to the Singh household in Elanthoor. Locals, who respect Singh, say they thought the visits were for treatment, nothing unusual. But Singh, Laila and Rasheed formed a strong bond in due course.
Police say Rasheed began his game by proposing before the couple that he needed to have sex with Laila in the presence of Singh at their house, situated in a secluded spot surrounded by other vacant homes for the desired supernatural effect. Blinded by the promise of wealth and money, the couple accepted the condition. Singh would witness with “reverence” Rasheed performing sexual acts on his wife, police say.
After several more visits to their house, Rasheed persuaded the couple to offer “human sacrifice” to “wash their sins” in order to get wealthy.
the Muslim occultist brought a woman lottery vendor from Kochi to Elanthoor on the promise of Rs 10 lakh for acting in a sleaze video. The hawker would be the first victim of Rasheed and his brainwashed clients. The occultist and the couple murdered her on 8 June.
Meanwhile, the victim’s daughter lodged a missing person case at the Kalady police station on 27 August, but the police could lay their hands on no evidence pointing to the whereabouts of the lottery vendor until the last week of last month.
Two months passed since their first murder. Now, Rasheed told Bhagaval Singh and Laila that the “goddesses” were not satisfied and another sacrifice must be made. The Muslim cultist picked another lottery vendor, originally hailing from Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu but living in Ponnurunni in Kochi, as the next target.
On 26 September, the trio allegedly killed this woman too, police say.
Police say Laila has confessed that her husband and she cooked and consumed the flesh of both victims since the Muslim occultist told them that doing so would “preserve” their youth. The triumvirate allegedly buried the mutilated bodies of the two women after the murders.
This time, however, the police were prompter in acting on the missing person’s complaint by the second victim’s sister on 26 September. The Kadavanthra Police swung into action and by 11 October, they arrested Mohammed Shafi alias Rasheed alias ‘Sreedevi’, Bhagaval Singh as well as Laila.
The couple was arrested from Kochi, 120 km from their native Elanthoor.
Police ordered digging out the first victim’s remains, which was found to be missing a rib.
Shocked on hearing the gory details of the crime, the locals said they had presumed ‘Vaidyan’ Singh was an activist of progressive political movements. They said he was known to be gentle and genuine and was also popular in literary circles for his Haikus.