Anand Swarnakar, the dreaded serial killer in Amazon Prime’s latest web series Dahaad, can send chills down the viewers’ spines. He does not employ violent methods to kill his victims, nor does he leave behind gruesome murder scenes. On the contrary, he is a mild-mannered Hindi professor in a local girls’ college in Rajasthan’s Mandawa, who analyses love poetry in his classes. It is precisely this polite demeanour that makes Anand, played by Vijay Varma, all the more terrifying. Though there has been no official confirmation from the creators of the show, Anand’s character seems to be loosely based on a mild-mannered teacher turned serial killer from Dakshina Kannada in Karnataka — Mohan Kumar aka Cyanide Mohan.Born in April 1963, Mohan was a teacher at Shirdi Primary School in Kanyana. He was also a meticulous murderer, who covered his tracks expertly for a span of five years. But leading a double life was hardly unfamiliar territory to Mohan, who had two wives simultaneously. After divorcing his first wife Mary because she would not convert to Hinduism, Mohan’s parents had arranged a marriage for him with Manjula, a woman from their community. He later married Sridevi, another woman from Mangaluru and had two children with each of them. Until the case came to light, however, neither wife was aware of the other’s existence or the fact that their husband was a murderer.Mohan’s murders almost went unnoticed until his latest victim, a 22-year-old woman named Anitha Mulya, was reported missing in June 2009 from Bantwal, a small town near Mangaluru. Curiously, the only reason Anitha’s disappearance warranted a thorough police investigation was because it was a suspected case of ‘love jihad’ — a conspiracy theory spread by right-wing extremists who claim that Muslim men deliberately marry Hindu women to convert them to Islam, without the statistics to validate it. According to The Quint, several Hindutva mobs carried out protests and wanted the police to arrest ‘love jihad terrorists’ who ‘kidnapped’ Anitha. The mob even lay siege to the local Bantwal police station which prompted the officers to form a high level probe team to look for Anitha. The police solved the case in a span of 20 days, connecting Anitha’s disappearance to 21 other women who went missing from the state.Read: Sonakshi Sinha’s Dahaad looks at crime through the lens of gender and casteMohan Kumar’s modus operandiMohan Kumar used to reportedly scout for victims in bus stops and other public places. According to a report by the Indian Express, a police officer from the team that arrested Mohan had said the killer would target women who were unmarried, “looked past the age of marriage”, and were from lower-income families.How Mohan went ahead with his interactions depended on the women’s initial reactions. If they welcomed his advances, he would introduce himself as a government officer and befriend them, eventually leading to a romantic relationship. Another police officer said that Mohan would even claim to arrange jobs for women. The killer barely used his real name and would often claim that he was from the same caste as the women he befriended.Once Mohan was convinced that the women were in love with him, he would suggest they elope and get married. The killer would ask the women to carry jewellery and their finest wedding adornments for the proposed ceremony. He also persuaded the women to keep their marriage plans a secret, and always insisted that he did not want dowry.When the couple were set on a marriage date, they would drive off to a distant city like Mysuru, Bengaluru, or Hassan among other places in Karnataka. They would check into a lodge near a bus stop and indulge in sexual intercourse that night. The next morning, Mohan would buy them emergency contraceptive pills and ask them to take it in the washroom of the bus stops, claiming that the pill could trigger the urge to urinate immediately. Little did the women realise that the pills were laced with cyanide, and would kill them in a short span of time. As soon as the women went to the toilet to take the pill, Mohan would leave the spot and return to his ‘normal life’.Mohan had reportedly pretended to be a goldsmith and bought copious amounts of cyanide from Abdul Salaam, a chemical dealer. Abdul was also arrested for selling the poisonous substance without a licence but later turned into a hostile witness.To avoid arousing suspicion, Mohan would sometimes call the parents of the women and tell them that the two of them had decided to get married and were leading a comfortable life. But how was Mohan Kumar able to get away with murdering 21 women over a span of five years?No connection between victimsEven though all of these women were found dead under similar circumstances, the murders were spread across Karnataka, making it difficult for the police to establish a pattern. Reports said that each time a woman was found dead in a bus stop bathroom, the police would register it as an ‘unidentified body’ and an autopsy would be performed. Several women’s corpses went unclaimed as parents did not know that their daughters were dead. According to the Indian Express, even the pictures of the women would be published in local dailies. But since their circulation was limited, families of the victims did not see them.Procedural lapses also gave Mohan a leeway to continue with his sinister activities. Delays in post mortems ensured that poison was not detected in the corpses, which resulted in many of these murders being ruled as suicides.A slip up from MohanMohan almost did get away with his near-perfectly executed series of crimes, when an unsuspecting gesture of ‘kindness’ led the police to him. When the Bantwal police began investigating the disappearance of Anitha, they looked at the call records in her mobile phone and the landline at her house. One cellphone number belonging to Sridhar from Madikeri looked odd so they investigated further. Then, it was discovered that Sridhar’s sister Kaveri, who was using his phone, also went missing in March 2009. The police then looked at Kaveri’s phone records which led them to two other missing women — Vinutha from Puttur and Pushpa from an area near the Kerala-Karnataka border. These discoveries led the police to a network of missing women who did not know each other, but somehow spoke to at least one missing woman for hours.The police first suspected the involvement of a human trafficking racket, but could not find conclusive proof. The police then intensified their search and looked for a common IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number, a unique 15-digit serial number given to every mobile phone, that used the SIM cards of the missing girls. One of them was used briefly at Deralakatte, a village in Mangaluru. The Indian Express reported that the owner of the phone said the phone was given to him by his nephew, Mohan Kumar, who was a teacher. The police had found their first suspect.A star witness, testimonies, and a confessionBefore Mohan was arrested, the police sought the help of Sumithra, a tailor in Deralakatte who had seen Anitha and Mohan leave on a bus together. She had also been approached by Mohan, claiming he was a plantation supervisor and offered to marry her. The police called Mohan from her mobile phone and waited for him at a local bus stop. When he arrived, the police arrested him. They were subsequently able to solve 18 murder cases as Mohan had confessed to killing them.A key witness in the case was a woman from Bantwal who survived Mohan’s murder attempt, unbeknownst to him. According to Open, Mohan had followed the same modus operandi with her after spending a night at a Madikeri lodge. However, the woman did not swallow the pill but just licked it and passed out in the bus stop’s washroom. Assuming she was dead, Mohan quickly left the scene but she was rescued in the next five days. She got married within a few months after the incident, without letting the world know about her ordeal.The police stumbled upon her while examining call records of one of the many cell phones Mohan used. A police officer who spoke to Open said that the woman had to be persuaded to testify against him after promising that her husband’s family would not know anything about her ordeal.Another person who testified against Mohan was a priest named Ishwar Bhat from an Annapoorneshwari temple in Mangaluru. Mohan had allegedly asked the priest to perform a puja so that he could relieve himself from the pain of murdering a woman. While Ishwar took it lightly at the beginning, when he began seeing pictures of Mohan in the newspaper, he informed the police.Mohan produced in court, convictedOnce he was arrested, Mohan was produced at a trial court shortly after. He argued his own case and claimed that there was no proof that he had murdered the women because there were no traces of cyanide in their bodies. But with airtight testimonies from the star witness and almost 49 other witnesses, he was convicted.Almost ten years after his arrest, Mohan was handed the death sentence for the murder of an anganwadi worker from Bantwal in 2005. Apart from the death sentence, the judge in the session court also allotted 10 years of rigorous imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 5,000 on him on the charge of abduction. Mohan was further sentenced to seven years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5,000 for the rape conviction. This was the 17th case that was being heard against him.In June 2020, he was convicted in the 20th murder case against him and sentenced to life by a trial court in Mangaluru. Out of the three death sentences that were given to him in the earlier cases, two were upheld and one was commuted by the Karnataka High Court. Except five cases, Mohan was found guilty in all of them.    Sign up for a Weekly Digest from Dhanya Rajendran* indicates requiredEmail Address * First Name   

By admin