Chennai: A 60-year-old woman, gagged and hands tied, was found dead at her residence on Habibulla road, a posh residential area in T Nagar, on Monday.
There were no external injuries on her body probably indicating she could either have been strangled or smothered to death.
After her mother’s death, the victim, Shanthi (60), was living alone in her ancestral house, which is the only old building in the now posh Habibullah road.
The murder came to light when her cousin Ramesh checked on her since his calls to her were unanswered since Sunday.
Thangaraj, a private security guard, saw the woman on Saturday night, asking restaurant employees to abstain from bursting firecrackers along Vidhyodaya main road. “I spotted a stranger clad in full sleeves and wearing a backpack loitering. I went to check on him and he appeared as if he belonged to a jewellery chain office. So I let him pass without asking him anything. At around 4.20 am, I saw him in the company of two others, one wearing a full sleeve shirt and the other clad in a green T-shirt”, he said.
The woman, whom the neighbourhood talks of as a sweet person and who was a graduate from a college in the city, remained a spinster. Vijayalakshmi, who had been Shanthi’s friend for 3 decades and who runs a hostel in the vicinity, said that she last spoke to her on Saraswathi Pooja.
“I suggested she takes a room in my hostel or gets into a serviced apartment so that she doesn't have to worry about her daily chores. She is a tough woman who would not even allow even her relatives inside her house. She used to complain that her relatives keep coming to her asking for money,” Vijayalakshmi said.
Preliminary investigations revealed that miscreants had broken into the house through the cement-window grille. A CCTV camera installed by the City Police is across from Shanthi's house.
Since storm water drain work was going on along Habibullah road, two earthmovers had been parked near her house, which had reportedly blocked the view.
Sources said her house in Habibullah Road could fetch several crores while she was also in possession of another prime property located in Perungudi and these properties were believed to have led to her murder.
DCP (T. Nagar) P. Saravanan said the murder could have taken place during the small hours of Sunday. “We are examining the CCTV footage, and are pursuing specific leads,” he told DC.
Enumeration of senior citizens to be revived
The murder of a senior citizen who was living alone in an upmarket residential area on Habibullah road is likely to lead to the revival of the enumeration of senior citizens by police. Such citizens are always deemed as soft targets by anti social elements. The drive is also expected to instil confidence in the cops who reach out to them; besides helping the elderly keep cops in the loop on the movement of any strangers.
The City Police's first of its kind initiative was launched in August 2014 following a spate of murders of senior citizens across the City. Besides enumeration, the cops also sensitised them on safety aspects. That drive became popular among the senior citizens, especially those who availed the assistance of cops in getting done their domestic chores, ranging from paying utility bills and collecting medicines from the pharmacy, which was allowed if the elderly were in such a state of health as to be incapable of attending to such chores themselves.
According to statistics disclosed by the City Police in a press conference on Aug. 8, 2014, the City Police had been able to enumerate as many as 8,965 elderly who were living in flats and individual residences. The drive dwindled after the City saw a change-of-guard in the top brass. There is still a register for this in every police station in all the 12 police districts under Greater Chennai Police jurisdiction.
A senior police official took exception to the claim that the drive had been dismantled. He said the drive to ensure the safety of senior citizens had not been discontinued. “In fact, we have been holding regular security meetings with functionaries of resident welfare associations and among residents as well. We will find more ways to better implement the safety of the senior citizens in the City”, the official said.