A magistrate court in Ernakulam on Thursday remanded three persons who have been accused of killing two women in Kerala, purportedly as part of a human sacrifice for financial prosperity, to police custody for 12 days, Bar and Bench reported.

The two women who have been killed, Rosily and Padmam, were both residents of Ernakulam and sold lottery tickets for a living. Rosily had been missing since June 6, while Padmam disappeared on September 26.

Their bodies were exhumed on Tuesday from the home of a couple identified as Bhagaval Singh and Laila in Pathanamthitta district’s Elanthoor village. The police arrested the couple along with a man identified as Muhammed Shafi alias Rasheed, a native of Perumbavoor.

The women frequently used to go to a restaurant in Kochi run by Shafi.

On Wednesday, the Kerala Police formed a Special Investigation Team to look into the murder, ANI reported. Kochi Deputy Police Commissioner S Sasidharan, who cracked the case, will head the team.

Meanwhile, a police remand report seeking the custody of the three accused persons revealed that Shafi had lured Padmam for sex work by promising her Rs 15,000. After an argument over the promised money, the accused strangled her. Shafi then thrust a knife into her private parts and slit her throat.

“After that, they cut her into 56 pieces and put it into buckets and then buried in the pit,” the remand report alleged.

In June, Shafi had lured Rosily in a similar manner to the couple’s home and promised to give her Rs 10 lakh.

“There, they tied her hands and legs to a cot and a cloth was inserted into the mouth and plastered it,” the report said. Singh chopped off her breasts before the rest of her body was cut into pieces by them and buried, it added.

Hours before the details came to light, Kochi City Police Commissioner CH Nagaraju had said the three accused persons may have also consumed the flesh of the women but there is no evidence of cannibalism yet.

Shafi, named as the main accused in the case, is a pervert and has a criminal past, Nagaraju said. He is also accused of raping a 75-year-old woman, who sustained injuries similar to Rosily and Padmam.

The police said Shafi used Facebook to find those who are facing financial difficulties. He came in contact with Singh, who worked as a traditional healer and masseur, through this method and told him that a black magic practitioner could offer solutions for his prosperity.

However, he himself went to Singh’s house pretending to be a black magic practitioner and allegedly advised him to carry out human sacrifices to end their financial troubles.

On Wednesday, a magistrate court sent Safi, Singh and Laila to judicial custody for 14 days.

The police suspect that the accused persons may have committed more such crimes and later asked for their remand custody for two weeks.