Chennai: There is now some light at the end of what seemed a blind alley in techie Swathi's murder at the Nungambakkam railway station. Teacher D. Tamilarasan, who told the police he witnessed the June 24 slaying from just 40 metres away on the railway platform, had also made a startling revelation - Swathi was slapped by a man in the first week of June at almost the
same spot where she was killed. If this is true, it would not be difficult for the police to identify the man from the photographs of Swathi's friends and acquaintances with help from Tamilarasan and other witnesses.
Tamilarasan also told the police - and later to some media persons too - that the man who had slapped Swathi seemed to be different from the one who hacked her to death. The 'slapper' was taller and fairer, said Tamilarasan, who teaches at a private college in Vandalur and uses the electric train to commute from his house in Choolaimedu near the Nungambakkam railway station to the place of work. Obviously, he had been seeing Swathi regularly at the station as she too lived in Choolaimedu.
"We are verifying if the slapper is linked to the slayer. There is a strong possibility", said a police officer involved in the investigation of the sensational murder. He said the police was probing if the killer had been contracted for the gruesome job by the slapper who might have had some personal problem with the girl. "The problem could have been serious, otherwise why would he slap the girl in a crowded public place in broad daylight despite the risk of being challenged by the girl and pulled up by the onlookers on the train platform? And if he had hired a killer, he was willing to spend a lot of money on settling scores, assuming it was a revenge murder. Public display of such anger could sometimes mean breaking up of a relationship", said the officer, requesting anonymity. He said it was possible that the contract killer could be from outside Tamil Nadu, since the murder weapon was unusual and nowhere resembled the 'aruval' familiar in this part of the country. It had a long wooden handle fitted to a long iron blade with the end portion bent and sharp like the farm sickle. "It is a deadly piece; light enough for carrying and swinging, and heavy enough to cut deep. The victim was hacked from behind, giving her no time to react and the deep cut on the right side of the neck appears to have been fatal, delivered by a professional hand", the officer said.
If the police investigators - there are ten teams working under the supervision of additional commissioner (south) K Shankar - think they have stumbled on a terrific lead, there is a small hitch as well. Swathi's sister has debunked the 'slap' claim by witness Tamilarasan, insisting that she was very close to her sister and she had seldom kept anything away from her. But Tamilararasan insists he is speaking the truth. "There were others on the platform who witnessed the slapping, not just me. And I am willing to come anywhere to testify", he told some media persons.
Investigators are working round-the-clock to announce the cracking of the murder that has not just created media headlines but also caused huge embarrassment to the police and the government. The 'slap' lead could turn out to be critically vital as that might lead them to the 'motive' for the crime and its 'author' who could have engaged a contract killer to execute it.
Or it may just be a flash that ended up in smoke.