Hyderabad: The acquittal on Friday of Pidathala Satyam Babu in the Ayesha Meera murder now raises the crucial question: “Who killed Ayesha?”
The 19-year-old first-year BPharm student of Nimrah College was found murdered in her hostel in Ibrahim-patnam on December 27, 2007. Her naked body was recovered from the bathroom.
The acquittal of Satyam Babu also raises questions over the motive behind the killing and why the police booked several unconnected people prior to the arrest of Satyam Babu.
The needle of suspicion immediately after the murder was pointed to Koneru Satish, the local gram panchayat sarpanch and grandson of then minister Koneru Ranga Rao. Another suspect was Congress leader C. Madhav Rao, the president of the local mandal parishad.
There were allegations that Satish and Madhav Rao used to visit the hostel at night and were having parties in the warden’s room as they were close to the management.
TD leader N. Chandrababu Naidu, who was in the Opposition in undivided AP at that time, had demanded the arrest of Satish and sought a CBI probe. In 2009, he had promised in his election campaign that he would order a re-inquiry into the murder if his party came to power.
Soon after the murder, police had claimed that it was the fallout of a “love affair” between Ayesha and her uncle.
The cops tried to book her relatives at Tenali. When they faced protests, the police took into custody one Sivanjaneyulu, tortured him, took him to Hyderabad, interrogated him, ran tests and declared him the culprit. His family approached the State Human Rights Commission and the police let him off based on its directions.
After this, the police arrested Upender Singh of Jagtial, and alleged that he was facing a rape and theft case. Almost 15 days after his interrogation, conducting blood tests and examining his handwriting, the police presented him as Ayesha’s murderer. He was also let off after his mother Lakshmibai and complained to the SHRC.
The police took into custody Gurvinder Singh Anand alias Laddu, via a prisoner transit warrant. He was subjected to several tests. Cops claimed his footprints matched those at the scene. He was placed in judicial custody. His family approached the SHRC, alleging that he was implicated.
Money offered: Lawyer
Mr Pichuka Srinivas, defence lawyer for Satyam Babu, who appeared before the trial court at Vijayawada, said that after dragging the case for nine months, and branding several as accused, the police chalked out a plan to conclude the investigation with the use of “modern scientific aids” like DNA and handwriting test and matching of footprints.
“They zeroed in on Satyam Babu who at that time was in the sub-jail in Krishna district for some other offence. The cops lured him with a huge sum to confess to having murdered Ayesha. Satyam Babu came from a poor Dalit family.
With a sister and mother at home and being the sole bread-winner, he accepted the offer and was shifted to Rajahmundry. There, the evidence was cooked up,” Mr Srinivas said.
“Though the families of the others moved the SHRC, Satyam Babu’s family could not avail legal remedies at the initial stage due to their weak financial position and there were threats from the police. The police took advantage of the physical disability of Satyam. The youth changed his mind after an attempt by the police to eliminate him by creating an false escape drama at Suryapet while he was being taken to Hyderabad,” the lawyer said.
He said there were minor cases against Satyam Babu, like one for cellphone theft.
“There were no rape case against him. The cases pertaining to an assault on one Vangapati Radha and an alleged rape attempt on a girl were foisted on him by inserting his name in the FIRs.
In these, the accused was shown as “unknown” and all the cases were acquitted by the High Court on previous occasions.”
No proof on Satyam Babu
Srinivas said there was no evidence against Satyam Babu, except for a report from the forensic lab that said the footprint of Satyam matched with the one at the scene of the crime, as also his handwriting.
“Even these are not believable as the director of the forensic lab, Dr Venkanna, who gave the forensic report in the case was corrupt. He was caught by the ACB for taking a bribe to give a false report in another case.”
He stated that the police had claimed that Satyam Babu’s motive was that she had “rejected” his offer of love. The cops claimed that is why he had written a letter after killing her, and left it at the scene. This was proved to be baseless.
Mr Habeebur Rahman, president of the Muslim United Front which agitated for the arrest of the culprits, said Satyam Babu was not a psycho as was projected by the police.
He demanded a CID probe by reopening the case, and action against the officers responsible for pursuing wrong leads.
He sought Rs 1-crore compensation to the family of Satyam Babu, besides a government job and a house for him.
Three Police Commissioners of Vijayawada including C.V. Anand, K. V. R. N. Reddy Seetharamanjaneyulu were changed during the course of investigations.
M. Srinivas the then SDPO of Nandigama was instrumental in arresting Satyam Babu in the murder case.
The police claimed that they found at the scene of offence a love letter written by Satyam Babu, blood stains on Ayesha’s dress and a handwritten word ‘Chirutha’ (leopard) using a marker written on Ayesha's chest.
The defense lawyer brought out on record that the forensic science laboratory at Hyderabad works under the DGP of the State and as such it is clear, as is seen from the record that they acted and danced to the tunes of the police department.
The murder took place in the intervening night of 26/27 December 2007 and it came to light on 27 morning.
Satyam Babu was arrested on August 17, 2008 and was convicted on September 29, 2010. Satyam Babu moved an appeal before the High Court on October 28, 2010 and the High Court acquitted Satyam Babu on March 31, 2017.