Originally from Pali district in Rajasthan, the Jain family moved to Coimbatore in the 1950s. The second generation set up their home in a residential area at Kathan Chetty Lane. They had a handloom and hardware business of bath and furniture accessories. Eleven-year-old Mukta and seven-year-old Ritesh Jain studied in class VI and class III at Suguna Rip School, Tatabad, around 6 kilometres from their home.
Their parents, Rajan and Swati, had arranged for the children to be picked up by a school van run by a taxi company called Surya Cabs, which also picked up and dropped off other children in the neighbourhood. As the lane leading to their house was too narrow for the van, it would wait for Mukta and Ritesh on the main road, Rangai Gowder Street.
On 29 October 2010, Ritesh and Mukta were ready for school by 7.30 am and left their house for the 500-metre walk down the lane to the pickup point. They were waiting in front of the Vinayak temple on the main road when a white Maruti Omni halted in front of them.
The person at the wheel, twenty-three-year-old Mohan Krishnan, was familiar to the children, but not their usual driver. There were no other children in the van – as there usually were – but neither thought much of it and got inside.
Instead of driving in the direction of the school, Mohan took the road to Pollachi, a town around 50 kilometres from Coimbatore.
When Mukta and Ritesh realised they were nowhere near their school, they began to panic. They repeatedly asked Mohan where he was taking them and begged to speak to their parents. Soon both were in tears.
To pacify the children, Mohan told them that he wasn’t taking them to school but to a class picnic and assured them that all their friends were already there. The kids stopped crying and waited in silence.
Continuing on beyond Pollachi, Mohan stopped at his village of Angalakurichi. He and his parents had moved from there to Coimbatore seven years before in search of employment.
Here, Mohan picked up twenty-three-year-old R Manoharan, his childhood friend and neighbour. Based on the confessions of the two men, the mahila court’s judgment would later note that the two had chalked out their plan to kidnap the two children five days before abducting them.
To execute their plan, however, the two kidnappers needed money. Around 10.00 am, after picking up Manoharan, Mohan approached Senthil Kumar, who lived on the property owned by his family, and asked for that month’s rent. Senthil, however, told him that he had already paid the rent to Mohan’s mother. His plan foiled, Mohan returned to the van and drove off.
Though the kidnappers had a mobile phone, they chose not to use it to call the children’s parents, knowing it would give away their location to the police.
“They knew that if they made the call from a mobile phone, the police would eventually track their location and find them. They had planned to demand a ransom of Rs 20 lakh. They decided to keep the children somewhere and make the ransom call from a landline,” said Thiru Kanagasabapathy, the investigating officer.
After setting out from Angalakurichi, Mohan drove for another 30 kilometres towards the Western Ghats and stopped at the base of a hill. As soon as the van stopped, the children began to ask about their classmates. Mohan told them they were in the Gopalsamy temple atop the hill and told them to get out of the car.
Mohan and Manoharan were familiar with the area and knew there was no fixed path to the temple. To get there, they would have to trek through a forest with two frightened, unwilling children.
A Annadurai, a member of the investigation team and inspector of the B-2 R.S. Puram police station at the time, said, “They knew no one would be at the temple that day since devotees from villages nearby visited it only on Saturdays. They planned to hide the children there and call the parents for money.”
Reluctantly, Mukta and Ritesh began to climb the hill with their two captors. But 500 metres into their climb, the two exhausted children refused to go any farther. Mohan and Manoharan discussed their options and concluded that it would be nearly impossible to drag the two children, kicking and screaming, up the hill without anyone noticing. Thwarted again, they decided to return to the van. They forced the children inside and drove away.
They hadn’t got far when the two kidnappers realised that while their dreams of a ransom were proving elusive, there was something they could have right now, if they wanted. Their attention turned to Mukta in the back seat.
Eight kilometres into their journey, Mohan parked the van in a mango orchard and he and Manoharan took turns raping the eleven-year-old girl. They forced Ritesh to sit in the front seat and each warned the boy not to turn around as the other assaulted her in the back of the van.
Investigating Officer Thiru said, “Mukta was too young to understand what was happening to her. They warned the boy not to turn around as they took turns raping her. Mohan raped her first, while Manoharan kept an eye on the boy and hit him every time he tried to turn his head.” The post-mortem report would later note that Mukta suffered “injuries to her vagina and anus due to forcible sexual assault”.
With their lust sated, the kidnappers – according to their retelling of events – realised the possible consequences of what they had done. No matter what happened now, they felt they could not return Mukta and Ritesh to their parents alive.
They drove back to Angalakurichi to clear their heads and figure out what to do next. After some deliberation, they decided to poison them with sani powder, a toxic chemical used as an insecticide in parts of Tamil Nadu, which people mix with water and sprinkle in their courtyards. “A number of suicide cases using sani powder have been reported in the state, and Mohan may have heard about them. They decided to mix the powder with milk and feed it to the children. Once they fell unconscious, they would leave their bodies in a forest,” said Thiru.
It was around 12.30 pm by the time Mohan and Manoharan drove back to their village and bought a packet of sani powder. They also bought some milk from a tea stall. Many eyewitnesses would later testify that they saw the two children sitting in the back of the van. Among them was B Sarvanakumar, the owner of the tea stall, who knew both the men.
Sarvanakumar later told the police that he had asked Mohan and Manoharan about the two children, and Mohan had said they were taking them to a school picnic. The two men finished their tea and left soon after, he recalled.
Mohan and Manoharan drove the van another 15 kilometres to Mithiparai in Tirupur district. After parking at a secluded spot, the two men mixed the sani powder with milk in a plastic tumbler and forced the kids to drink it. Petrified, they obeyed and drank a little but found the taste unpleasant and refused to drink any more. The post-mortem report would later confirm the presence of the chemical in the small intestines of both children, but the dose wasn’t lethal.
Mohan and Manoharan knew that it wouldn’t be enough to kill them. Frustrated, they returned to Angalakurichi to figure out another way of killing them.
About an hour later, the van with all four headed towards the Parambikulam Aliyar Project (PAP) canal about 70 kilometres away. Mohan and Manoharan had decided that drowning the children was the best option at hand.
Mohan stopped the van at Deepalapatti, close to the massive canal. The canal was very deep, and people living in the area knew that the current was too strong for anyone to swim in it. “They thought that if they pushed the children into the canal, their bodies would travel at least 100-150 kilometres and that there was a good chance they would never be found,” said Annadurai.
They told the children to eat the lunch they had brought from home. When they finished eating, around 3.30 pm, the two men told them to go wash their hands in the canal.
Annadurai said, “While Mukta went towards the water, Ritesh was reluctant to go. Mohan grabbed him by his neck and dragged him before pushing both of them into the canal.” The two men walked another 500 metres and threw the children’s school bags and lunch boxes in as well before returning to the van.
Mohan dropped Manoharan to his house, and a few hours later was back in Coimbatore, where the Jains were engaged in a frantic search for their missing children. It hadn’t taken long for the family to realise that Mukta and Ritesh had vanished. Just ten minutes after Mohan picked them up in his van, the regular school van had arrived outside their lane. As there was no sign of the children, the driver telephoned their mother, Swati. Seconds into the conversation, Swati realised that something terrible had happened.
Names have been changed since the case involves the rape of a minor.
Excerpted with permission from Kidnapped: True Stories of Abduction, Ransom and Revenge, Arita Sarkar, Blue Salt.