A watchman in Andhra Pradesh allegedly murdered 10 people, including three women, over the past two years, using cyanide-laced prasadam or holy offering.
The last of Simhadri's suspected victims in West Godavari district died as recently as October, the police say. The man died shortly after he left home with cash and jewellery saying he was going to deposit them in a bank. A couple of hours later, his body was found minus the money or cash.
The police initially thought the man had died either from a brain stroke or heart failure, as the body had no injuries. The post mortem hadn't revealed cyanide poisoning, senior police officer Navdeep Singh told NDTV.
Call records showed he was in touch with V Simhadri; the police suspect he had conned the victim into paying Rs 1.5 to 2 lakh in exchange for a "rice-pulling coin" or a coin believed by many to attract prosperity.
The test for such a coin, often demonstrated, is that it can pull rice grains in the vicinity.
The police checked on some 220 contacts on Simhadri's phone and realised that at least 10 suspicious deaths were reported in those families. Simhadri worked as a watchman in an apartment complex in Eluru.
Four cases were registered in Eluru and Rajahmundry while in six other deaths, there was no police complaint.
Simhadri allegedly pretended to be a realtor and also a man with supernatural powers.
The interrogation of Simhadri and others revealed that he would fool his victims into giving him money or jewellery for what he claimed were "energised rice-pulling coins". He gave them a prasad or offering along with the coin, which had cyanide in it. Moments after eating the prasad they would collapse.
"Among his victims was his maternal grandmother and his sister-in-law. He would source the cyanide from the nickel-coating workshop of his friend in Vijayawada,'' said the police officer. All 10 murders took place between January 2018 and now.
About Rs 1.6 lakh in cash and 26 gold coins were found. The police want to exhume three or four bodies that were buried instead of being cremated, so that they can forensically establish cyanide.
These murders have surfaced while the police in Kerala are still investigating the "Jolly" murders or serial killings within a family allegedly by a homemaker, Jolly Shaju.