From Kanyakumari to Rishikesh: The story of a murderer in disguise who evaded Delhi Police for 27 years

- May 1, 2024
| By : Kushan Niyogi |

For 27 years, Tillu, a 77-year-old murder accused, pulled the wool over Delhi Police’s eyes, roaming the length and breadth of India’s holy sites

Delhi police (Representational photo)

Laying almost naked, in the guise of a fakir, the likes of which line the stairwells of the holy city of Rishikesh, was a wanted criminal who had spent almost three decades on the run.

Tillu alias Ramdas, aged 77, had escaped the authorities for 27 years, living the life of an absconder for the better part of his life. The 77-year-old was a resident of Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, where he was staying at a government residential colony near Kanpur Ordnance Factory. The plan in 1993 was always to move to Delhi. Thus, following the death of his wife while delivering her daughter, Tillu and his daughter moved to the national capital in search of a new life, taking up residence at his sister’s place.

However, their life in Delhi would be cut short in 1997, when an FIR was filed against him and his brother-in-law, Ramu Lal.

According to a senior police official who was a part of the six-person team which had been observing the case closely, both the brother-in-law and Tillu had conspired to murder Kishan Lal, Ramu’s brother, in a property deal gone wrong.

“Both the accused had given Kishan Lal Rs 11,000 to buy a patch of land in Tughlaqabad for them. However, according to him, it went wrong as the latter, after buying the land, had supposedly demanded a share. The dispute flared up further, after which, both of them proceeded to bludgeon (Kishan) Lal’s head to death with a hammer,” he said.

The police report states that the three were on their way to Tillu’s brother-in-law’s residence which was nearby. All three of them used to reside in Tughlakabad. According to Kishan’s wife, Sunita, Ramu had come to their residence to call upon Kishan, taking him to the former’s residence. However, through the night, nobody returned.

A harrowing sight awaited as Sunita peaked into Ramu’s residence, as Kishan’s lifeless body lay on a cot, wrapped in a cloth. A river of blood flowed on the ground as Sunita started looking for the house owners. However, nobody could be found, with Ramu and Tillu, along with their family members, having run across the border to Kanpur once again.

However, most cases like these seldom end. Much like the same, his escape marked the beginning of his journey.

“He had turned into a fakir, donning the disguise of a wandering sadhu. From Rishikesh to Haridwar, he would visit each pilgrimage site whenever it was season. Jaha bhi path lagta tha, chala jaata tha (Whenever there was a sermon, he would go). However, he wouldn’t go to such places out of devotion, but only to have free food,” the official added.

The police had been tracking the accused for 27 years as the accused kept donning new disguises and changing numbers. On the other hand, he had also changed his identity to Ramdas on his Aadhaar card, a resident of Badaun.

“A team of six had initially been tasked with tracking the accused down,” said Amit Goel, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch.

The team was able to zero in on the suspect as it noticed a strange calling pattern on the phone of the accused’s son-in-law. “During the investigation, we remembered that the accused had a daughter, who was around two years old then. We zeroed in on her when we were sifting through his relatives and friends, and found out that the phone of her husband, who is in the army, had received multiple calls from a particular number,” the official said.

The number was often found to be switched off; however, whenever it was powered on, the police traced it to religious places.

In 2023, the police tracked the movements of the accused, who was initially a labourer by profession, to Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. However, the police lost track of him as he moved towards Puri in Odisha.

Eventually, when the police were able to track him to the final location in Rishikesh, they formed a team led by Inspector Manmeet Malik, Sub-Inspectors Naresh Kumar and Sunil Panwar, alongside two constables, under the supervision of Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Inter State Cell (ISC), Ramesh Lamba.

“We did not have many clues. We did not have any pictures to recognise him either. The last photo that we have was from 1997. Sablog wahan pe waise bhi ek jaise dikhte hai… sadhu jaise. Agar kisi galat insaan ko pakad lete to phir puri public peetne lagti (Everyone in Rishikesh almost looks the same… like a Sadhu. Had we nabbed the wrong person, the public would have bayed for our blood),” the senior official said.

Ramdas alias Tillu, the accused murderer, pictured alongside the Delhi Police ISC team

The police had staked out the place for around four days, disguising themselves as volunteers at multiple bhandaras. The team finally pinpointed his location after calling the number multiple times and, with help from an informer in the guise of a sadhu, caught him.

The Uttarakhand Police also helped their colleagues from Delhi to get the accused transported from Rishikesh to the national capital.

The official added that the accused’s accomplice had died sometime over the past 27 years.