ALAVANDAR MURDER CASE
One of the most sensational cases that Dr. C. B. Gopalakrishna investigated from the Forensic Science angle was the history -making Alavandar Murder Case. Even though more than half century has rolled over the far blue horizon since the murder and its trial which shook South India, it is still being talked about and discussed as excitedly as it was 50 -plus years ago. This writer wrote a TV serial based on this case in Tamil, which was produced by the ‘Dhina Thanthi’ Group-owned TV Division, and telecast over Doordarshan some years ago. Not surprisingly it turned out to be a major success!
The writer created a character based on Dr. Gopalakrishna in this TV serial and called him much to his delight, Dr. Krishna Gopal!
The noted Madras morning daily, "The Hindu" carried a short news item one morning during August 1952. It had a sensational headline that caught the reader’s attention at once. "CITY BUSINESSMAN MISSING!"
A complaint had been made at the Law College police station in Esplanade, Madras that a person named Alavandar was missing, and his whereabouts were not known. The complainant was a well - known businessman of the city, a big dealer in fountain pens and the owner of the noted firm Gem & Company, M. C. Cunnan Chetty.
Who was Alavandar? A man in his early forties, during the Second World War (1939-1945) he had worked as Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO) at the Army Headquarters at Avadi near Madras. He belonged to the Hindu Vysya community to which M.C. Cunnan also belonged. Known as "Komati Chettis" the Telugu-speaking members of this community are traditionally businessmen and many of them wealthy. But Alavandar was not. After his discharge from the British Indian Army service he looked around for a living and chose to have a small business of his own. Plastic goods.
The age of plastics dawned in India, soon after the War and caught the fancy the Indian consumer. The articles were colorful, light, and not so expensive. Plastic articles became the fashion of the day and Alavandar thought that it was a good line of business. His fellow Vysya, Cunnan Chetty kindly gave him a small space in the frontage of his pen company for him to display the goods and conduct his business. Gem & Company drew many customers and it seemed a fine venue of business for the novelty of the day.
Alavandar also had another line of business. Selling saris on installments. The installment business was something new in Madras during that period. With its easy terms of payments and possession of the goods it found ready acceptance and took firm roots. Though some criticized it as "buying on the never-never" it found its place in the economy of the country and the world too.
(According to law goods bought on the installment plan never really belonged to the user until and unless the last installment was paid. Until then the lessor was the legal owner and he had right to seize the property at any time for default in payment, That was why it was called buying on the "never-never" system of purchase because the article never legally belonged to one until the end!)
Alavandar had his wife with two children but his interest in women never abated even with passing years. He believed himself to be a stud and sex athlete and he had undergone circumcision.
(There is a mistaken unscientific belief that circumcision improves the amatory prowess of a male. Medically it is incorrect. Alavandar’s circumcision played a minor but significant role in the murder baffling men of Forensic Science and cops! An interesting sidelight in a grim case of murder.)
Alavandar was also an opium addict. Again, there is a belief that opium is an aphrodisiac. But according to Medical Science there is no known aphrodisiac. As they say it is all in the mind! However according to his doctor Alavandar took opium to relieve him of the frequent attacks of asthma. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between….
Mrs. Alavandar waited for her husband at home and as he did not return even after daybreak she went to Gem & Company and made enquiries. The pen company staff told her that her husband had gone to meet a friend in Royapuram and he did not return to the shop afterwards.
Whom did he go to meet? A woman. Her name was Devaki.
(Royapuram is a seaside area of Madras City and for a long time it had a high Christian population. Indeed the name is derived from Saint Peter who is known as "Royappa" in Indian languages like Tamil. )
Devaki, a native of the Kerala State on the West Coast of India was an attractive young woman. College-educated she lived in Madras and involved herself in social service. During one of her visits to the pen company she had met Alavandar and the two became pals. Soon they were having a red -hot affair. To the plastic-dealer playboy she was just one more point on his scoreboard. (A close friend of Alavandar told this writer that he often boasted that he had gone to bed with 400-plus women of all communities in India!)
Alavandar went into the sale of saris on installments mainly to get close to women and his customers were mostly nurses, students staying in hostels, spinsters, working women, vain housewives, and such. When his clients failed to pay the installments he insisted on payment in kind and found many were willing to agree to his terms. He took his women to a lodge on Broadway close to his place of work. Invariably he registered under a fake name and address.
(During mid- 1950’s an interesting case came up for hearing at the Madras High Court. A lodge-proprietor was being prosecuted for using the premises for "immoral traffic" and the hotel register of roomers was filed as material object (MO) in the case. The hotel- owner claimed that the pairs in the register were all married couples and there was nothing immoral about his patrons. The opposing counsel read out the register. All the names and addresses were ridiculously fake and provoked gales of laughter in court. A sampler… Mr. & Mrs. Raman, 27, Ayodhyapuram, Dasarathapatti! ...Mr. & Mrs. Krishna Kumar, 304, Dwarakapuri, Bombay! The men who had registered under such names and addresses were foreign sailors out on a spree in Madras on shore leave!)
(To be continued)