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Appu drops date clue

Kancheepuram, Dec. 20: A day after he was taken into custody, 'prize catch' Appu told police that he visited the Kanchi mutt 12 times in August to call on the seer, now in jail in connection with the murder of temple manager Shankar Raman.

Kancheepuram district SP K. Prem Kumar said the statement of Appu, alleged to be the key person who organised the hitmen for the September murder, 'strengthened evidence' that Jayendra Saraswati had liaised with the killer gang through him.

Further details could be revealed only to the Supreme Court as it has sought all documents relating to the seer's bail plea, Kumar, who heads the special investigation team probing the murder, said.

Smartly dressed, Appu today smiled and waved to lensmen from the police vehicle as he was taken for questioning to a bungalow behind Kumar's official residence. He was unruffled when he was produced in court in the afternoon, where he was formally remanded in police custody for three days.

Kumar refuted that Appu had 'surrendered' to Andhra Pradesh police in Chittoor yesterday. He said the accused was a 'prize catch' of Tamil Nadu police, which had turned blood into sweat in the last month to get hold of him.

Dubbing Appu a 'don' wanted in several cases, including a murder in Chennai, Kumar said three police parties had fanned out to Nagpur, Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Goa and Hyderabad last month on his trail.

On a tip-off, the teams had zeroed in on Goa and Hyderabad in the last four days, he said. One team further narrowed its search to Hyderabad, Tirupati and Puttur on Saturday. Around 4 in the evening yesterday, it cornered Appu near a hill close to his farmhouse in Balakrishnapuram in Chittoor district, he said.

Kumar denied that second accused Ravi Subramanian, the Chennai-based builder alleged to be the funds conduit between the mutt and the killers, had committed suicide by jumping into the Ganga. Appu would be questioned about his whereabouts, he said.

Later, Kancheepuram additional SP Sakthivel pleaded before the court that Appu be granted police custody for a week as further investigation needed to be done on how he had 'conspired' with the seer and 'hatched' the murder plot. While granting police custody for three days, the court said Appu was a heart patient and should not be harassed or tortured. A government doctor should also examine him daily.

The court allowed Appu to nominate an advocate of his choice, who would be permitted to visit the place of interrogation for consultation with him. Appu has been charged under Sections 34, 120(B) (criminal conspiracy) and Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code.

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