Mangaluru, March 4, 2018: A day after the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh gained the custody of gunrunner and suspect Naveen Kumar, two special teams left Bengaluru on Saturday, to verify his claims. While one team has reached Mangaluru, where Naveen had spent a considerable number of years, another has left for a neighbouring state.
Sources said investigators have credible information about the involvement of four others in Gauri’s murder.Though sources also confirmed that Naveen has made a confession, details about his statements were not revealed as they have been submitted in a sealed envelope to the court.
Multiple officials in the SIT said the four suspects arrived in Kollegala for firearms training at the behest of a Mangaluru-based man. “This Mangaluru man is supposed to have urged these men to play their role in what he believed was a greater cause. He is said to have told them that his religious mentor from a neighbouring state had sought their help in fighting a war,” one official said.
Investigators who visited villages between Kollegal and Chamarajanagar said locals identified Naveen and four others. “The team visited several villages, especially those around the forests surrounding Kollegal, where the training happened. We showed them photographs of Naveen (taken from all angles) and sketches of the four other men, prepared based on descriptions given by Naveen,” an official said.
The official said villagers were able to identify Naveen and also confirm that four others accompanied him on multiple days. They also described how the gang travelled in a Maruti van (Omni) and was generous with the tip. “They (the gang) mostly survived on biscuits and snacks from small stalls around the forest area and ran up bills as high as Rs 300 on some occasions. Villagers recounted how they left a tip of Rs 200 for a bill of Rs 300,” sources said. Naveen, currently in SIT custody, was questioned on Saturday as well.
Gauri Lankesh was murdered on September 5, 2017, by unknown assailants outside her Rajarajeshwari Nagar residence. The SIT that has been probing the case for nearly six months was in the dark for the most part.
The first breakthrough in the case came when Bengaluru police arrested Naveen earlier this year under the Arms Act, 1959.