Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Serial Killer Spotlight: ‘Motta’ Navas, Bashed Victims Heads in with a Rock

Motta Navas, 46, was arrested on November 1, 2012, after a series of murders in Kollam, Kerala, India, committed between June and August. The targets were sleeping street people, those who live in shanty-like structures erected in the street against walls of private properties. They have lived in India’s city roadways for generations, and are to most invisible. There is very little available about Navas’ life in English. The victims were all easy targets, and the killer made no effort to hide his work. There is no mention of any sexual assault or post mortem mutilation. The lack of any obvious motive seems to indicate that his victims were merely objects on which to vent a homicidal rage.

Navas, reportedly a drug addict, would go to sleep early, around 8 p.m., and wake around midnight to hunt for prey, according to police. The victims mostly had their heads bashed in, often with a stone. The reports do not mention robbery, so the attacks were not intended to fund Navas’ alleged drug habit. Navas has had a mental evaluation, so insanity is probably not a driving factor, though he seems to fake the symptoms effectively when it suits his purposes.

According to police the first victim, killed on June 6, 2012, was a man about 65. He was bludgeoned to death while sleeping under an underpass. Authorities were having difficulty identifying him. The second victim, killed the very next night, did have a name: Appukuttan Achary. He was struck on the back the neck with such force that his spine was fatally damaged. Soon after Achary’s murder police had Navas taken into custody as a suspect. Navas had two prior murder convictions, one for the murder of one Rajasekaran in 1996, for which he was released after four years due to a lack of witnesses; another in 2007 for the murder of one Shamir, for which he was released in 2011. No motive or details of those murders has been released. When police arrested Navas in June 2012 he feigned mental illness, and was remanded to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. Psychiatrists found him mentally fit — and released him. He returned to Kollam, where he would allegedly kill three more people.

On June 18 the third victim, Bondan Kumar, was bludgeoned to death with a stone under the same underpass as the first victim. On August 3, the body of Thankappan, 55, was found in a pool of blood in a bus shelter outside the Saint Joseph’s Convent School. He also was attacked in his sleep. The fifth murder attributed to this series was committed while the victim, Sudarsanan, 45, slept in the shelter of the Municipal Building in Chinnakada. He too was had his brains bashed out with a stone.

Between Sudarsanan’s murder and his arrest, Navas allegedly tried to kill two more people, but those victims, whose names have not been released, managed to escape with their lives. Though police noticed Navas in the vicinity of the attacks those nights, he feigned mental illness, so they ignored him. He is currently in custody awaiting trial.

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