Murder Most Foul: Part 2 – The Headless Cadaver


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Myself . 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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The Boat Mail Train aka the Indo-Ceylon Express

In the 1950s, there was much traffic between India and Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) by land and sea. The Boat Mail train, aka the Indo-Ceylon Express plied between Chennai (then Madras) and Dhanushkodi on the Bay of Bengal. It took almost 19 hours to complete the journey of 675 kilometers.

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Ferry service from Dhanushkodi Pier to Talaimannar in the 1950s.
Ferry service from Dhanushkodi Pier to Talaimannar in the 1950s.

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After the Boat Mail train reached Dhanushkodi Pier at 15:05 hours in the afternoon, the passengers after alighting from the train crossed the Palk Strait using the steamer ferry service from Dhanushkodi Pier to Talaimannar Pier in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The ferry steamer used to leave the Indian shore soon after 16:00 hours. It took about 3½ hours for the crossing.

The era of the Boat Mail came to an end after a cyclonic storm with high-speed winds, and high tidal waves struck South India and northern Ceylon between December 22 and 25, 1964. The entire town of Dhanushkodi was completely submerged with heavy casualties. The railway line running from Pamban Station to Dhanushkodi Pier was destroyed, and a passenger train with over 100 passengers drowned in the sea.

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 The railway track in Dhanushkodi destroyed by the cyclone of December 22, 1964
The railway track in Dhanushkodi destroyed by the cyclone of December 22, 1964

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Years later, the name of the train changed from Indo-Ceylon Express to Rameswaram Express.

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The Headless Cadaver Crammed in a Steel Trunk

As the day dawned on August 29, 1952, the Indo-Ceylon Express was nearing Manamadurai. The passengers in a third class compartment started complaining about the stench emanating from a steel trunk placed under a seat and the foul-smelling gooey fluid that oozed from it. The train had left Madras Egmore railway station at 20:00 hours the previous night, on its way to Dhanushkodi.

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Alavandar murder case - steel trunk

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When the train came to a halt at the Manamadurai Junction at 10:15 AM, the Railway Police detained the compartment. The local police opened the steel trunk in the presence of witnesses and were shocked to see a headless nude male cadaver crammed inside, along with severed limbs.

Since the penis was circumcised and the victim was wearing green socks on his feet, the colour preferred by most Muslims, the police concluded that the murder victim was a Muslim. However, the police overlooked the thick string around the waist, usually worn by Hindu men, even today, to hold the loincloth in its place and did not place any importance to it.

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The First Autopsy in Madurai

Manamadurai was then part of the Ramnad district. At the district headquarters in Madurai, the District Medical Officer Dr Krishnaswamy, a radiologist, performed the autopsy on the headless corpse at the Erskine Hospital, (now Madurai Medical College). He took X-rays, and his report said the headless trunk belonged to a male of 25 years of age. Unfortunately, this conclusion was not quite correct.

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The Second Autopsy in Madras

Meanwhile, the headless corpse was brought from Madurai to the Forensic Department of Madras Medical College where Dr C. B. Gopalakrishna, Assistant Professor of Forensic Medicine at Madras Medical College carried out a fresh autopsy.

The autopsy result said the head was slightly decomposed. A sharp weapon had been used to severe the head at the cervical vertebra, and a piece of bone was missing. Nevertheless, the cervical vertebra of the head and the trunk fitted perfectly confirming that they belonged to the same person aged between 42 and 45. The missing Alavandar was 42.

Two teeth had peculiar formation, over-riding one on another. At the mortuary, Mrs Alavandar, after looking at the severed head and the peculiarly formed teeth – a solitary black tooth along with two teeth over-riding one on another, and the pierced ear lobes, she confirmed that the corpse was that of her husband.

That Alavandar was an opium addict came to light when the narcotic was found in the dead person’s stomach. He might have consumed it as an aphrodisiac, or as a relief from his frequent asthma attacks.

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← Previous: Part 1 – The Decapitated Head 

→ Next: Part 3 – The Killing

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