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Life imprisonment for the owner of Saravana Bhavan chain of hotels


CHENNAI, 30 MARCH. Love, deceit, black magic, crime and punishment – the Prince Santhakumar murder case, which has ruined the lives of many people, has everything in full measure. The Supreme Court verdict on Friday upholding life imprisonment for P Rajagopal, owner of Saravana Bhavan chain of hotels, turned out to be a fitting climax for a 17-year-old crime of passion that few would forget.

When she ‘escaped’ from the custody of Rajagopal’s men and lodged a kidnap complaint on January 31, 2001, Jeevajothi would not have dreamt that it would turn out to be one of such a sensational case. In her complaint, she suspected that Rajagopal and his men might have kidnapped her husband Prince Santhakumar.

The then inspector of police B Sivasankaran, who took over probe from the then Velachery inspector S Deivasigamani, reminisced the sequence of events, and told TOI how Jeevajothi’s family comprising herself, her parents and brother Ramkumar had migrated from Thothakudi in Vedaranyam and how her father Ramasamy became ‘Saravana Bhavan’ Rajagopal’s employee.

Shanthakumar entered the scene as tuition teacher for Ramkumar, and soon thereafter Jeevajothi fell in love with him. First, they eloped to Madurai but were traced by men engaged by Rajagopal. “The hotelier started wooingJeevajothi after astrologer Ravi of Madipakkam told him that he would become one of the richest people in the world if he married Jeevajothi. Rajagopal went to the extent of engaging a black magician to make Jeevajothi hate Shanthakumar. He also set his men upon Santhakumar and tried to scare him out of Jeevajothi’s life.

But, Shanthakumar returned after a while and planned to elope with Jeevajothi to some unknown destination and settle there.

Rajagopal, however, took them to a temple in Tirunelveli, where he offered them a room in a lodge. From there, Rajagopal kidnapped Shanthakumar and got him murdered. His body was dumped in Tiger Shola in Kodaikanal hills, Sivasankaran said.

The officer further told TOI that Rajagopal asked Jeevajothi to forget Santhakumar, as he had turned lunatic and disappeared. He kept her in his custody in KK Nagar till she escaped to Vedaranyam before lodging a formal complaint of kidnap with Velachery police. “It was the starting point of the entire case,” said Sivasankaran.

The investigation officers weaved an air-tight case against Rajagopal utilising damning statements, evidence and recovery of things, including Santhakumar’s body. Though in 2004 a special court in Poonamallee awarded 10-year imprisonment to Rajagopal and others, it was the then judge of Madras high court, Justice S Banumathi (now a judge in the Supreme Court), who enhanced it to one of life imprisonment in 2009.



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