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HomeIndiaMissing CCTV footage, drunk driver — why Kerala models' car 'accident' case...

Missing CCTV footage, drunk driver — why Kerala models’ car ‘accident’ case has turned murky

Police say they are probing if VIPs were involved in the incident, say many questions still remain to be answered. Families say accident or not, they're waiting for justice.

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Bengaluru: It has been 25 days since former Miss Kerala runner-up Anjana Shajan and former Miss South India Ansi Kabeer died in a car crash in Kochi. But their families are still looking for answers.

The car in which Anjana, Ansi, their friend Muhammad Ashiq, and driver Abdul Rehman were travelling crashed into a tree after hitting a two-wheeler on National Highway 66/Ernakulam bypass road in Chakkaraparambu on 1 November. While Ansi and Anjana, who were in the rear seat, died on the spot, Ashiq succumbed to severe injuries a week later.

Rehman, who was allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol, sustained injuries but survived the high-impact crash. He was booked for drunken and rash driving and culpable homicide not amounting to murder by the Kochi police and arrested on 8 November, but was released on bail later.

While it was initially treated as a freak accident caused due to drunken driving, the case has taken several turns over the last two weeks, compelling the victims’ families to demand a thorough investigation.

“Either I or my father have to always be around my mother. We are afraid she will harm herself because of this unbearable sorrow. We want justice for my sister,” Anjana’s brother, Arjun, told ThePrint.

The timeline of events

The mystery around the case began unravelling after police began backtracking events that unfolded before the accident. Rehman’s statement that their car was being chased by a man driving an Audi added to speculation that the ‘accident’ was more than what met the eye.

On 31 October, Ansi and Anjana went to a hotel in Kochi to attend a party. Their entry into the hotel at around 7:30 pm is on CCTV camera, but the footage thereafter is missing.

“The CCTV footage between 7:30 pm, after their entry, until about 9:30 pm is missing,” said Arjun, recalling the videos he reviewed with the investigating team.

“Between 9:30 pm to 12:02 am, she (Anjana) was offered alcohol but she rejected it. Footage of the parking lot post 12:02 am is also missing,” Arjun added.

Last week, Ansi’s family petitioned the police to investigate why the footage was deleted.

After prolonged interrogation on 17 November, the owner of the hotel — Roy J. Vayalat — confessed to the police that he had destroyed the digital video record (DVR) of CCTVs installed at the party hall.

Police claim Vayalat said he sent his friend — Shaiju Thankachan (who was driving the Audi) — to trail the victims’ car to “dissuade them from driving under influence of alcohol”. Vayalat also told the police that some ‘attendees’ of the party had asked the models to stay back, but they had refused and left the venue.

Vayalat was arrested on 17 November for destroying evidence, but was granted bail the next day along with five of his employees. Thankachan got anticipatory bail in the case on 18 November despite not being named an accused.

In his initial statement to the police, Thankachan said he was trying to avert the mishap and called Vayalat as soon as the accident took place.

Meanwhile, Vayalat’s employees told the police that they had destroyed the DVR and threw the hard disk into waters under Kannamgattu bridge at Thevara on his instructions.

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Efforts to piece the case together

The Kochi police sought the Indian Navy, Coast Guard and coastal police’s help to search for the hard disk. While search operations have been underway for days, teams of divers armed with underwater cameras have not been successful.

Vayalat’s actions of destroying the footage have reportedly sparked off speculation about an attempt to cover up the involvement of influential persons.

“Footage from the parking lot is missing. Perhaps there was an argument there as well. I don’t know. Abdul in his statement to the police has said that Shaiju, who was chasing, them intercepted their car at Kundannoor and forced the two women to go with him. It was perhaps for sexual favours and the women refused to go with him. It needs to be probed,” Arjun said.

The case was transferred to the crime branch in the third week of November.

Speaking to reporters last Tuesday, Kochi Police Commissioner C.H. Nagaraju said the police are probing if VIPs were in the party and acknowledged that many questions were still unanswered.

“If Abdul Rehman was driving the car under the influence of alcohol, he must be punished. If Shaiju was chasing the car and caused the accident, he must be punished too… But both are roaming free and my sister is gone. While accused walk free, we are left waiting for justice,” Arjun said.

(Edited by Neha Mahajan)

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