Hyderabad: Yerukali Srinu, the Mahabubnagar serial killer who has allegedly killed at least 17 women, would often target those who would frequent toddy shops. In particular, he would keep a lookout for women who drank alone in such shops.
Reminiscent of the pick-up lines used in Hollywood films, Srinu would dress up, go to toddy shops and single out women, usually aged somewhere between 35-60, and buy them liquor. “Nenu teeyala, Nuvvu osthava?” (Should I get it, or will you come?) he would ask. Most of the victims, in need of money or company, would fall for this bait.
Talking about the case, Mahabubnagar Superintendent of Police Rema Rajeswari, said, “His victims are mostly women who drink alone. He would offer them a quarter of good quality liquor, and a bike ride. If they agree, he will take them to these isolated spots, where he would start threatening them for money or jewellery. If they don’t resist and hand over the money, he leaves them and flees the spot.”
How the crime unravelled
When 53-year-old Chitti Alivelamma had gone to the toddy shop near Tirumaldev Gate on December 16, little did she realise that it would be her last day. The serial killer Yerukali Srinu had approached her on that fated day, and soon they got into talking. Srinu told her that a Devarkadra-resident had taken Rs 20,000 from him as loan and if she would help him collect the amount, he will give her Rs 4,000. On believing his words, she got on his motorcycle, and both continued to drink on the way. Noticing that she was completely intoxicated, Srinu punched her chest and strangulated her, leading to her death. He also robbed her of her gold jewellery.
The lid blew off when a Village Revenue Officer (VRO) from Dokur approached Devarkadra police station to complain about an unknown female body lying near Tapowan School at Koilsagar canal on December 17. The investigation into the mysterious body led the police to learn the name of the deceased: Chitti Alivelamma. On December 27, Mahabubnagar police arrested Srinu for the murder of the 53-year-old woman.
In his confession, he admitted to committing three more murders — one under Boothpur police station limits, where the victim was identified as Anche Balamma. In the other two murders, which come under Kothakota Mandal and Midgil Mandal, police are yet to identify the women. Police consider his wife Salamma complicit in the crime since they found the recovered property hidden inside the rice container in their house.
Money as a major motive
As the investigation is underway, police officials believe that more crimes committed by the alleged serial killer are yet to be unearthed. The investigating officers also believe that the skeletal remains of a woman found in Abdullapurmet could be a victim of Srinu. The remains were found in the sand yard maintained by the Telangana State Mineral Development Corporation (TSMDC) on the outskirts of Abdullapurmet. “We are yet to prove this, and further investigation is underway,” added the police officer.
‘More murders under investigation.’
Yerukali Srinu, who had once escaped from Mahabubnagar prison, is a repeat offender. He had been convicted for a life sentence in the murder of his brother’s mother-in-law, under Thimmajipet police station. He was in jail from 2009 and was released in 2013 due to remission of punishment.
Srinu was notorious for his modus operandi. He would take extreme care not to visit the same toddy shop again and would choose a different place each time. He also possessed 4-5 different numbers and kept changing them. In 15 years, police from four different districts in Telangana — Nagarkurnool, Wanaparthy, Mahabubnagar and Hyderabad — has booked cases against him.