Temple town gives Goa its most notorious serial killer

By Mayabhushan Nagvenkar, IANS,

Shiroda (Goa) : Known throughout Goa for its cluster of historical temples, Ponda has in recent times served as a macabre backdrop to one of the most gruesome serial crimes in the history of the state.

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Stretched over a period of 15 years, police claim that Mahanand Naik, 40, a resident of Tarvalem in Ponda area’s Shiroda town, about 35 km from Panaji, allegedly raped and killed 10 women for reasons ranging from money, jewellery, lust and revenge.

While the investigators appear to have run out of Naik’s motives for murder, the body count simply isn’t slowing down.

Arrested following a complaint of rape in April this year, Naik, who is married and a father of a two-year-old child, confessed to killing 10 women from 1994 till date, under sustained interrogation over three weeks.

“Goa has never seen a serial killing spree of such proportions. Ten murders spread over a period of 15 years has got to be the most gruesome serial crime in the state. And we do not know if there are more coming,” former superintendent of police Apa Teli told IANS.

Incidentally, Teli was the officer in charge of the Ponda police station when Naik made his first kill – Darshana Naik – in 1994. He was summoned to the police station yet again in 1995, in connection with the murder of Vasanti Gaude, 29, but political intervention ensured that Naik was allowed to walk away scot-free.

“We did arrest Naik then, but were forced to release him prematurely after a morcha picketed outside the police station, seeking his release from custody. We could not interrogate him in the murder case then. If we could have, probably, a lot of lives could have been saved,” Deputy Superintendent of Police Serafin Dias said.

“His modus operandi was very similar. In eight cases, he befriended his victims, proposed marriage and asked them to carry their gold ornaments on the pretext that he was taking them home to meet his parents,” police inspector C.L. Patil, who is investigating the case, told IANS.

“Once the victims carried the gold with them, he would take them to a desolate area and strangle them using a dupatta (long scarf),” he said, adding that Naik would then strip the victim naked, in order to avoid identification, before disposing the body.

While admitting procedural lapses on part of the police department in being unable to pin down Naik’s rampage early, officials are shocked even more by the way in which he picked his victims.

“He picked women from a poor financial background and those who were on the wrong side of the 20s or early 30s. On speaking to their parents during the investigation, most of them said that they had been finding a tough time to get them wedded off,” a police official investigating the case told IANS, adding he used to choose his victim after a cold analysis of their background and then pursue them.

“He banked on the social stigma, which dogs middle-aged unmarried women. By offering marriage, he would lull his victims into a comfort zone and then kill and rob them,” Teli said.

Leader of Opposition Manohar Parrikar claimed that the police have been sleeping over an increasing number of cases involving missing middle-aged women. The former chief minister, who is also chairman of the ad hoc legislative committee on home, said that erring police officials, whose continued dereliction allowed Naik to kill at will over the years, would not be spared.

“I have called for details of missing cases from all over Goa over the last 10 years. Its time we take such incidents seriously,” he said.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at [email protected])