THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Panathura area which is a strong base of Arayan (Hindu fishermen) community has never been infamous for crimes barring drunken brawls and card gambling. However, with the rape and murder of a Latvian tourist, its swampy terrains have suddenly gained notoriety.
The fables of mysterious deaths and child abuse have spread like wildfire and they revolve around coconut groves and mangroves that spread for acres.
"The main accused Udayan used to come with us for plumbing work after his SSLC (Class X).
He was clean then but slowly drifted away to the company of tipplers. The last I heard is that he was working as a coconut plucker. He used to engage in fights with his brother," said a man who did not wish to be identified "People already know of him as having sexually abused a homemaker across the river two years ago. We don't know whether he is a sexual predator but it's very much possible," he added.
The groups searching for evidence in the Latvian woman's murder raised suspicion of paedophilia prevailing there after shoes of school girls were found amidst the mangrove.
The Karamana river separates the beach area and the side of Panathura that is accessible from the National Highway bypass. Every half an hour, women and children cross the 100-metre width of the river using a boat pulled across using rope.
Cops believe that it is unlikely for the people in the nearest house to miss the smell of the dead body. On the other hand, the stench of hydrogen sulphide from retting coconut husk can also potentially camouflage smells from far-off areas. Tipplers and druggies from as far as Kazhakotttam come here to booze.
"Even when police were inspecting the spot, some tipplers who were ignorant about the crime came here with bottles," a woman working in the coir industry said.
"Many a time tourists who walk from Kovalam come here through the highway side but they immediately return on seeing the dead-end near the river," she said and added that the Latvian woman's partner had come to the spot on Saturday also....