We've all had those days, curled up on a couch with a cup of warm tea and a good crime fiction novel — the perfect recipe for a rainy weekend. Typed out in ink, crime can be thoroughly intriguing to read about. But, when it comes to true crime stories in the real world, there's a whole lot more to it than intrigue.
Both morbidly enthralling and deeply saddening, unsolved crime stories leave you oscillating between anger and maddening curiosity. Whether you're here to play detective and solve the whodunit or point fingers at our failed justice system, you can be sure of one thing — there's so much more to real human emotions that even the most thrilling fiction can't capture.
With scientific breakthroughs making it easier to find new evidence — DNA testing, semen analysis, brain mapping — one might think that our justice system's ability to solve homicides would have increased, at least incrementally if not massively. Still, numerous cases in the last decade, whether it's the Salman Khan verdict or the split-down-the-middle Aarushi Talwar case, have proven otherwise. For every culprit left un-cuffed is a family that still awaits closure; which only reiterates the judiciary's unfulfilled responsibilities.
Honoring the victims of acts of passion, greed, jealousy and more, we have compiled a list of 14 unsolved crimes. Even though the justice system could not provide their families with closure, it may bring solace to know that their stories have a voice even today.
I. The Lakshmikanthan Murder Case (1944)
A tabloid journalist was stabbed to death in Vepery, Madras Presidency.
The Crime Story: C. N. Lakshmikanthan was an infamous film journalist in Madras Presidency, who made waves with his magazine Cinema Thoothu in 1943. Focusing on the personal lives of top actors and actresses, Lakshmikanthan's columns attracted substantial attention and hush money. Despite setbacks, he resurfaced with the publication Hindu Nesan, continuing his scandalous stories. His persistence paid off, allowing him to purchase his own printing press. Lakshmikanthan's journey epitomized the captivating and controversial world of sensational journalism. There were even claims that he had criminal ties prior to his life as a journalist.
On November 8, 1944, while returning home in a hand rickshaw, C. N. Lakshmikanthan was attacked by unknown assailants, one of whom stabbed him with a knife in the left side of his abdomen. Despite the grevious injury, he managed to reach his lawyer's house and was later taken to General Hospital, Madras. In critical condition, Lakshmikanthan passed away on November 9, 1944, due to complications from his injuries. Consequent arrests of suspects were made including renowned Tamil film actors M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar and N. S. Krishnan and director S. M. Sriramulu Naidu. While Naidu was acquitted, Bhagavathar and Krishnan were found guilty and convicted, only to be proved innocent and released later. The real killers have continued to elude justice.
II. The Sukumara Kurup Case (1984)
A fraud case gone wrong, a young man was brutally murdered in Mavelikara, Kerala.
The Crime Story: Sukumara Kurup, also known as Sukumara Pillai, is an elusive figure and a high-priority criminal on Kerala's most-wanted list in India. His tale of infamy dates back to January 21, 1984, when he, accompanied by his co-brother Bhaskara Pillai, driver Ponnappan, and aide Shahu, executed a chilling plot that would reverberate through the annals of crime.
Their target was a man named Chacko, whom they mercilessly intoxicated, poisoned, and strangulated. The motive behind this heinous act? To orchestrate Kurup's own demise. A sham death was meticulously staged to deceive the world and pocket a staggering life insurance payout of ₹8 lahks (US$10,000). The sinister purpose behind this brutal act becomes apparent when one considers the striking resemblance between Chacko and Sukumara Kurup. However, their elaborate charade was swiftly unraveled by the keen-eyed authorities, leading to the apprehension of Bhaskara Pillai, Ponnappan, and Shahu. Kurup, on the other hand, slipped through their grasp, evading capture and disappearing into the shadows, making him India's longest-standing fugitive.
III. The Stoneman Killings (1985)
A serial killer was on a spree, smashing the heads of ragpickers and homeless people with a heavy block of stone.
The Crime Story: Stoneman is the nickname given to the serial killer, who murdered at least 13 sleeping homeless people in Calcutta in 1989 by crushing their heads with a heavy stone. The same name is assigned to the unidentified murderer who terrorized the streets of Mumbai from 1985 to 1988 using the same modus operandi to kill. There has been no conclusive evidence to indicate if the murders were committed by the same person, a group of persons, or a copycat killer. To date, the murderer or murderers remain at large.
IV. The Amar Singh Chamlika Murder (1988)
A Punjabi folk singer and his wife were gunned down in the middle of the night.
The Crime Story: Born into a poor family, Dhani Ram Singh had a natural talent for music. With time, he became a renowned on-stage performer and adopted the stage name, Amar Singh Chamkila. In 1979 his first album was released and it was a huge success. His lyrics, which were drawn from experiences of Punjabi village life, received mixed responses. While many applauded the apt commentary on the social evils prevalent in society, others considered his boyish charm and suggestive lines obscene. Regardless, Chamkila came to be a household name all over. However when Chamlika went to perform in the town of Mehsampur, Punjab on March 8, 1988, tragedy struck him and his wife Amarjot. As they stepped out of their vehicle, a gang of motorcyclists ambushed them, showering the couple and their entourage with a hail of bullets. The culprits vanished without a trace, leaving the case unsolved. Speculation points to Sikh militants as the alleged perpetrators.
V. Shivani Bhatnagar Case (1999)
An Indian Express journalist was found dead in her apartment.
The Crime Story: A principal correspondent with the Indian Express and member of their Special Investigative team was found murdered in her apartment in East Delhi in 1999. Since there were no signs of forced entry, it is believed that her attackers might have been known to her, or else they used a ruse to enter. Indian Express reports suggested that the room has been ransacked post the murder, but there is no clue as to what they were looking for. It is worth mentioning that she was an investigative journalist who had uncovered and reported various scams. It was a case that impacted the highest echelons of Indian politics and the law enforcement agency.
IPS officer Ravi Kant Sharma faced grave charges of murdering Shivani Bhatnagar, with prosecutors alleging a sinister motive behind the heinous act. The heart of the matter lay in the possession of legal documents that Sharma had reportedly leaked to Bhatnagar, only to find himself at odds when she refused to return them. Whispers circulated that these documents held political sensitivity, specifically pertaining to the St Kitts case, and Bhatnagar intended to use them as leverage against Sharma, a move that seemingly pushed him to orchestrate her untimely demise.
However, in a stark twist, Ravi Kant Sharma vehemently denied these allegations, painting a different picture altogether. He claimed to have had an intimate relationship with Shivani Bhatnagar, suggesting that the motive for her murder stemmed from a deeper personal conflict. According to this alternative theory, Bhatnagar intended to expose their relationship, a revelation Sharma vehemently opposed as it posed a threat to his social standing. Faced with the prospect of his reputation being tarnished, Sharma was purportedly driven to have her eliminated, ensuring that she would never unveil their connection to the world.
These conflicting narratives cast a shadow of uncertainty over the true motivations behind Shivani Bhatnagar's tragic demise. As the legal proceedings unfolded, the prosecution painted a portrait of a calculated murder driven by the possession of sensitive documents, while Sharma adamantly denied the accusations, asserting a complex personal relationship as the catalyst for the crime. The courtroom became a stage where the tangled web of secrets, betrayals, and hidden motives unfolded, leaving the truth buried beneath layers of speculation and intrigue. After a tedious long trial, Ravi Kant Sharma was acquitted by the High Court for lack of evidence.
VI. The Death of Prince Santharam (2001)
The dead body of Santharam was found in Kodaikanal by the police, the murder linked to an affluent businessman.
The Crime Story: Born into a low-caste family, P. Rajagopal decided to risk it all, and started his own chain of restaurants. He was extremely successful, with patrons constantly flocking in and out and, ultimately in 2000, he was able to set up his first branch outside India.
The story, as explained by the Madras High Court, is a little hazy, but remains the only narrative that tells the story without any filters. Rajagopal wished to marry a woman named Jeevajothi (making her his third wife), but she, as fate would have it, was in love with a man named Santhakumar, and the two eloped in 1999. As a man who had learnt to make his own destiny, Rajagopal was not ready to let the object of his fixation get away so easily. So, he pursued her relentlessly. On October 31, 2001, the police discovered the body of Santhakumar, who had died due to asphyxia. Daniel, one of Rajagopal’s trusted employees had been tied to the murder - he was tried and convicted, and later released on bail only to be never found again.
In 2004, Rajagopal was charged with murder and he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Eight months into the sentence, he was released on medical grounds and by the end of that year, the restaurant chain had opened 29 branches worldwide. In 2009, the Madras High Court upgraded the conviction from culpable homicide to murder and extended his punishment to a life imprisonment. Three months into the punishment, he was released once again on bail, pending a Supreme Court hearing, which is likely to never occur.
VII. The Murder Of Garima Sharma (2003)
A seven-year-old girl was found dead, the culprit unknown.
The Crime Story: On 9th May 2003, a seven-year-old girl was brutally murdered in Keshavpuram, New Delhi. She was the daughter of Narendra Kumar Sharma, an accountant in the Delhi Development Authority. In the evening, she told her family that she was going out to the nearby shop to buy candies. Her parents started to worry when Garima was not returning for a long time. Accompanied with the neighbors, they began a search. At around 10pm, the neighbors found her body in the colony park, with her head savagely smashed against a wall. Till date, the murderer remains at large.
VIII. The Beerman Killings (2006-2007)
A series of seven murders held the city of Mumbai in terror. The only tying factor was the beer bottle left next to each victim.
The Crime Story: In 2006, Mumbai was gripped by a series of horrifying murders that took place between Churchgate and Marine Lines. Over a span of several months, seven victims, including cab drivers and homeless individuals, were discovered brutally killed and stripped naked from the waist down, indicating possible sexual assault. The victims, aged between 20 and 40, were stabbed or clubbed to death, with one victim sustaining nearly 20 stab wounds. This disturbing pattern led to the emergence of a moniker for the perpetrator: the Beer Man, as empty Kingfisher Beer cans were found near two of the bodies. The killings sent shockwaves through the up-market areas of Churchgate and Marine Lines, prompting an extensive investigation by an 80-member special investigation team.
The police made a breakthrough when a police sniffer dog traced the murderer's scent to a public washroom in Marine Lines Station, where they discovered a grey shirt. Further inquiries led them to Ravindra Kantrole, a 36-year-old former member of the Dashrath Rane gang who had converted to Islam and lived in a slum near Marine Lines. Kantrole's handwriting matched that found on a piece of paper near one of the crime scenes, and additional evidence, including a blood-stained shirt and a chopper, was recovered from him. During interrogation, Kantrole confessed to killing not just the seven known victims, but a total of 15 people. He admitted to being addicted to charas and deriving pleasure from seeing blood when he attacked his victims, but denied any sexual assault. Despite some lingering doubts and rumors, Kantrole was ultimately sentenced to life in prison, although he was later released in 2009 due to lack of admissible evidence, leaving unanswered questions about the Beer Man's true identity and the possibility of an ongoing threat.
IX. The Snehal Gaware Murder (2007)
24 hours after she went missing, her body was discovered hidden in her house.
The Crime Story: In a tragic turn of events, Snehal Gaware, a vibrant young woman from Dombivili, Thane, Maharashtra, met a brutal demise on July 20, 2007. The suspected culprit behind this heinous crime? None other than her own boyfriend. Snehal, a student at Sardar Patel College of Engineering in Andheri, resided with her parents in Dombivili's Ninad Society, where she was recovering from a leg injury sustained in June of that year.
The shocking incident unfolded when Snehal's mother returned home on that fateful day, only to discover that her daughter was nowhere to be found. The subsequent day brought unimaginable grief as Snehal's lifeless body was discovered, her mouth gagged, with her hands and legs tied in her own bed.
Months later, authorities arrested Snehal's boyfriend, who had been pursuing further education in the United States during the intervening period. However, the charges against him were ultimately dropped the following year due to a purported lack of evidence, leaving this distressing case unresolved.
X. The Rizwanur Rahman Murder (2007)
A man’s dead body was found near the railway tracks. The incident was ruled out as an accident by the police.
The Crime Story: The story of 30 year-old computer graphics trainer, Rizwanur Rahman is shrouded in mystery. While some claim it was as a suicide, there are many who still consider it murder or a case, where the victim was driven to suicide. He was a middle-class man who fell in love with a rich, Hindu girl and the couple kept their affair and consequent inter-religious marriage a secret from their families.
When the girl's father found, a rich industrialist, found out about the marriage, he was enraged. He demanded that Rahman remove himself from his duaghter's life, to which Rahman did not comply. The father threatened to heap charges of kidnapping and illegal confinement on Rahman. At that time, Rahman's wife and his family was living in a tiny run-down house in a Muslim neighborhood. It has been alleged that due to an understanding with the girl's family, top level police officers of the state summoned the couple several times to State Police Headquarters at Lalbazar, Kolkata, and threatened Rizwan of dire consequences if he did not separate from his wife. Rizwan refused to give in.
Finally, Rahman agreed to let her visit her parents for 7 days. He obtained a signed document in the presence of the police stating that his wife would be returned to him within 7 days. In the final conversation with Rahman on September 11th, at her father's house, little did they know it would be their last. Just four days later, Rahman's attempts to reach her were thwarted by her parents who denied him permission to speak to her. Then, on September 18th, a witness to their marriage faced police threats for their alleged involvement in "forcing her into marriage."
Growing increasingly concerned as the days passed without her return, Rahman sought assistance from an NGO on September 19th, documenting the harassment he faced from the police. His diary and conversations with close friends revealed his plans for legal action to reunite with his wife. In a letter addressed to an NGO, Rahman expressed his willingness to convert to Hinduism in hopes of achieving a peaceful married life.
Tragically, Rahman's life came to a devastating end on September 21st, a mere two weeks after his wife was forcibly separated from him. His lifeless body was discovered by a railway line, hands folded over his chest, and a deep wound on the back of his head.
Even before the post-mortem results were released, the then Police Commissioner, Prasun Mukherjee, dismissively labeled Rahman's death as a "simple case of suicide". Mukherjee defended police intervention in such cases, deeming elopements morally unacceptable, despite legal protections for inter-religious marriages. The commissioner's controversial remarks sparked outrage, particularly as it was revealed that he had met with her father's brother shortly after Rahman's marriage and had pledged police support to separate the couple. Mukherjee's ties to influential figures, including the Chief Minister of West Bengal at that time, further fueled speculation of undue influence.
Challenging the suicide theory, media reports raised doubts, with a train driver who first discovered Rahman's body asserting that it was not a result of a train accident. The circumstances surrounding Rahman's untimely demise continued to be shrouded in intrigue. Was it suicide or murder? We'll never know for sure.
XI. The Scarlett Keeling Case (2008)
A crime on Goa's beach claimed the life of a young girl on holiday.
The Crime Story: On February 18, 2008, Scarlett Keeling’ bruised body was found on the shores of Anjuna Beach, Goa. Initially, the case was dismissed as a case of accidental drowning, until her mother sought a second post-mortem which revealed she had been drugged and raped. For the past 15 years her mother has been on a long campaign awaiting justice. Two local men were accused, but there was never enough evidence to convict them. Her mother, having lost faith in our justice system, has begun to believe that she may never find answers. Still, she continues to wait, hoping that one day these men will be punished for their crimes.
XII. The Chennai Triple Murder (2008)
A septuagenarian couple and their maid fell victim to a murder-cum-robbery.
The Crime Story: On 20 November 2008, S. Saravanan, his wife, S. Kasthuri, and their domestic help, K. Inbarasi, were found dead, with multiple stab injuries, on the second floor of their house. There were several indications to prove that it was a murder-cum-robbery incident. Even though the jewelry on both women was intact, the almirahs in the house were ransacked.
Satish Kumar, a call taxi driver along with all the old drivers of Saravanan were considered as suspects in this case. However, the case built by the police seemed to have several loopholes, starting with the fact that not all the documents and properties of the family were accounted for. Even though several jewels and other important items were missing, the report never indicated this. A year after the murder, the Assistant Commissioner of Police Sethuraman, who was in charge of the case, was found guilty of accepting bribes, which brought the credibility of the entire case into question. And once again, we are left to wonder how we can place our faith in a system willing to sell us to the devil for a piece of gold.
XIII. The Noida Double Murder (2008)
A 13 year-old-girl and her 45-year-old domestic help were found murdered within the Talwar household.
The Crime Story: The story of the gruesome murders of Arushi Talwar and Hemraj Banjade was one that shocked the entire nation. As the media carefully followed this story and sensationalized its every discovery, whispers, and countless controversies surrounded this grieving family. Eventually, Arushi's parents, Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, were charged with homicide. However, the fact that this case has its fair share of loopholes and grey areas is not news to anyone, which is what convinced us it deserved a slot on this compilation either way.
There are several points, from narratives of the Talwars and others, where the events of that night seem inconsistent with the rest of the story. Chunnilal Gautam, the UP Police photographer and fingerprint collector, had taken photos and collected fingerprints that morning, yet 22 of 24 fingerprints are fuzzy, and 23 of his photographs don't match the negatives. In addition, he neglected to take pictures of blood-stained footprints on the terrace where Hemraj's body was found.
Initially, Hemraj was thought to be missing and that made him a primary suspect, until his body was discovered on the terrace. Seven days later, Rajesh was arrested for the double murder and he was released on bail two months later. At this point, a senior police officer revealed in a press conference that Rajesh had killed them after finding his daughter and the Hemraj in a compromising position — a story that had no basis or evidence. The case gets more and more intriguing, as in June, three friends of Hemraj were arrested under suspicion, only to be released three months later.
Despite having no foolproof evidence, Arushi's parents were arrested and convicted for the murder in 2013, possibly an effort to close the case as quickly as possible. However, they challenged the decision in the Allahabad court and in 2017, they were acquitted. If they are truly not the murderers, we are left with two things to worry about: the gross miscarriage of justice and the fact that the actual murderer roams free till date.
XIV. Kolkata's Hitchcock House (2015)
A unique set of circumstances surrounded two bodies found within the De household.
The Crime Story: On June 11, 2015 the Kolkata police arrived at Partha De's house after the locals alerted them about smoke coming out of one of the windows. In a story that would slowly unfold to resonate with Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, the police stumbled upon the charred body of a 77 year old man within one of the bathrooms, and a skeleton of a woman in one of the bedrooms. Two bags full of dog bones were also found in one of the rooms. It ultimately came to light that 77-year-old victim Arabinda De's son, Partha De had been living with the corpse of his sister, who had reportedly died in December last year.
Investigations revealed that De, in all likelihood,was mentally unstable. He couldn't come to terms with the death of their dogs and his sister, as a result of which he refused to cremate them. He was convinced that his sister's spirit would visit him and he would also leave food for her next to her body. Partha's father was unaware of the death of his daughter until April that year and although conjecture, some say finding out about his daughter's death propelled him to self-immolate.
The three occupants of the house maintained diaries and notes, which they believe is the medium through which they communicated. Several of Partha De's diary entries suggest that he was displeased with his mother, who died in 2002, because she thought he was impotent. A Indian Express report says, "In an entry, Partho said that during an outstation trip, his sister, Debjani, had tried to get physically intimate with him." Given his mental condition, there are doubts about how much is real and how much is imagined.
The family had turned into a recluse ever since the mother's death, as a result of which none of their relatives had a clear understanding of their family dynamics. Even though evidence suggests that the father's death was a suicide, the real human conflicts ailing the members of the De family might never come to light.