PRAKASAM: The Eighth Additional Sessions Court on Monday awarded the death penalty to the notorious highway serial killer gang headed by Md Abdul Samad alias Munna Bhai and 11 of his gang members. Judge G. Manohar Reddy sentenced 12 people to death, where four were sentenced to life imprisonment and another to seven years in prison.
The main accused Munna Bhai (51) and his gang members were arrested in cases related to ghastly murders and robberies on the national highways in 2008 near Ongole and have been lodged in prison for the past 13 years.
Chargesheets have been filed against a total of 20 people in 4 cases related to these gang atrocities. One of these cases was investigated by the CID while 3 cases were investigated by the police. Bangalore-based Halimsat and Shaukat are said to be absconding.Of the total 4 cases, 20 were convicted and the above two were absconding while the remaining 18 were convicted.
Modus Operandi and how they were caught
Munna and his gang operated as two gangs, where they would pose as people who needed lifts and would stop lorries on the highway. The second set of members posing as policemen would stop the vehicle under the pretext of checking and they would kill the drivers and cleaners. They would sell the loot and dismantle the lorry at Munna's garage in Ongole and sell it for scrap.
They were found guilty of murdering six persons in four such cases in Ongole limits between 2007 and 2008.
Their atrocities came to light after the death of Tamil Nadu lorry driver Ramasekhar and cleaner Perumal Subramani near Ulavapadu, near Ongole limits. The gang after killing them sold the 21.7 tons of iron rods in the lorry to an iron merchant in Guntur. The bodies of the driver and cleaner were packed in gunny bags and buried on the banks of Inumanamelluru Gundlakammavagu in Kukki Maddipadu Mandal.
On October 17, 2008, the lorry owner Veerappan Kuppuswamy lodged a complaint with Ongole police saying that his lorry, along with the driver and cleaner and laden with 21.7 tons of iron rods from Durgapur of West Bengal went missing.
- The lorry driver Ramasekhar and cleaner Perumal Subramani were in constant touch with owner Veerappan Kuppuswamy on the phone till Ongole. After which he lost contact with them and as the days went by, he lodged a complaint with the Ongole taluka police station about their disappearance.
- In another incident a lorry heading to Kanchipuram from Chhattisgarh was stopped at Thettu and driver Bhushan Yadav, cleaner Chandan Kumar Mehto were killed and buried in Manneru Wagu.
- Another lorry heading to Kakinada from Gummadipudi in Tamil Nadu was stopped at Edugundlapadu and driver Guduri Shyambabu and cleaner Guthula Vinodkumar (residents of Narasapuram mandal in West Godavari district) were killed and buried on the banks of Chadalavada Gundlakamma in Naguluppalapadu mandal.
-A lorry driver from Nagaland was brutally murdered and buried at Innamanelloor in Maddipadu mandal.
The matter came to light during the preliminary investigation of the then Trainee DSP, current PTC Principal AR Damodar. During the investigation, the police found that Syed Abdul Samad alias Munna Bhai and his gang was involved in the disappearance of the lorry drivers and launched a manhunt.
Munna tried to flee the country and was arrested in the farmhouse of a former MLA in Karnataka and brought back to Ongole by the police.
The CID was investigating a case registered by the Ongole taluka police in connection with robberies and murders on the national highway, CID Regional Office Additional SP PR Rajendrakumar said in a statement. CID DSP Raghu filed the charge sheet in the case in 2010 and lawyer Sivaramakrishna Prasad argued on behalf of the prosecution. Rajendrakumar said that he would speak to the AP Police superiors and recommend rewards to be presented to all those who worked to solve the case successfully.
''The case of a lorry missing came up when I was as a Trainee DSP in Ongone. As part of the investigation, information was gathered at the toll gates from the area where the lorry was last seen. We collected details of the lorry driver and the cleaners from the owners and spoke to several people in the area. It was at this point that we suspected the role of the iron scrap sellers as the missing lorries were laden with iron rods. This proved to help us solve the case faster.'' - AR Damodar, then Trainee DSP, now Ongole PTC Principal
'' During the investigation, we had to face many challenges when tried to trace and arrest them. They kept changing their SIM cards to evade arrest and eventually were taken into custody. We were shocked at the details of how they executed the ghastly murders during interrogation. Details of where they were killed and where the corpses were buried were revealed. When we went to retrieve the bodies we found only the skeletal remains.'
- T. Shankar Reddy, then Town DSP, retired Additional SP