Nellore: Nellore police cracked a murder mystery of a school employee B Nirmala Bai(45) who was found murdered on May 28. A poster of actor Rajinikanth pasted on the accused's auto rickshaw helped the police identify the vehicle and arrest him.

Speaking to the media in the District police office on Monday, SP Aishwarya Rastogi revealed the sequence of events that led to the murder. The victim was a widow working in a private school. She was staying alone at Ramalingapuram in Nellore, as her son was employed in Bengaluru and daughter was pursuing a course at Tirupati.

She befriended the accused Vemasani Srikanth(22) alias Ramaswamy alias Rajinikanth of Arvind Nagar who was working as an auto driver in Nellore town. She developed an intimate relationship with him over the past six months.

Srikanth who was steeped in debt and hatched a plan to rob her of her jewellery and cash, and kill her as well. On May 28, he met her on the way from school and they both went to her place. After having intercourse, he sat on her, leaving her motionless, stabbed her on the neck 15 times and took her chain and bangles that she had on. Unable to take the earrings off he chopped her earlobes. After that, he took Rs 2,000 from her purse and checked her cupboard for cash. Unable to find any cash, he took a few newspapers, set them on fire, and threw them on the body. He opened the gas valve to make it look like an accident.

Seeing smoke emanate from her home the neighbours rushed inside and called the police. They first assumed it to be an accident caused by a gas cylinder that was accidentally left open. However, the autopsy report showed that she had been stabbed in her neck and the earlobes cut off. The police registered a case of murder for gain and started an investigation.

Suspecting the hand of a known person, as there were no signs of a forced entry, they started checking CCTV footage from the school to her residence. They saw her getting into an auto near the school, which was also parked in front of her house. The auto had a picture of Rajinikanth pasted on it.

After sifting through CCTV images of nearly 10,000 three-wheelers, they located the vehicle at the Muthukur Road traffic junction near Apollo Hospital on Monday. The accused was immediately caught and taken into custody. The police got to know that the auto rickshaw belonged to Srikanth and as he was a huge fan of Rajinikanth, he pasted a sticker of the actor on the vehicle which ultimately gave him away.

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During questioning, Srikanth claimed that he was in an affair with Nirmala for six months and that he murdered her for her gold. He was disheartened to find out that the jewellery turned out to be made of fake gold, when he tried to sell it to a pawn broker.

Another interesting fact that came to light was that Srikanth was polio afflicted in both legs. And not just Nirmala, there were many other women who were lured and cheated by him. They also found out that he had cheated a girl studying in the 10th grade and they immediately alerted her parents about this.

Three teams led by Balaji Nagar circle inspector G Venugopala Reddy and sub-inspector Ramesh Babu who investigated the case under the supervision of Nellore Town Deputy SP NBM Murali Krishna arrested Srikanth and were appreciated for their efforts and duly awarded.

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