Cuttack/Bengaluru: James Ray, the accused in the sensational murder of Payal Surekha in 2010, was sentenced to life on Wednesday.
Ray, now 37, had stabbed Payal 23 times. He was the gym instructor at Payal’s husband Ananth and his father’s gym ‘Cuts and Curves’ in Cuttack.
The case went through loops and twists, including one where Payal’s parents viewed her husband as a suspect. A total of 62 witnesses were examined and the 32nd additional city civil and session court (CBI court) judge K Shivarama convicted and sentenced Ray to life on Wednesday, along with a fine of Rs 1 lakh.
Payal, who grew up in Bongaigaon in Assam, later studied in Bengaluru where she met Ananth. They got married in 2008 and moved to Cuttack where Ananth and his father, Narayan ran the gym. Ray worked as an instructor there.
Soon, Ananth and his father found financial irregularities in the running of the gym and Ray’s involvement in stealing money. He allegedly sold illegal energy supplements and misbehaved with the female members.
Payal advised Ananth and her father-in-law to fjre Ray. She eventually moved to Bengaluru in November 2010 after getting a job in Dell.
Ray did not take the humiliation well and his resentment grew. Rendered jobless, he shifted to Hyderabad to do a computer course and plotted to avenge his pride. He got Payal and Ananth’s Bengaluru address from a common friend and reached their place when Ananth was not in town.
Ray had an argument with Payal, who ordered him to leave. Payal then called up Ananth and scolded him for being lenient with Ray.
Ray returned on December 17, 2010, when Ananth had gone to Cuttack. He stabbed Payal 23 times at 10.30 am. The murder was discovered around 2.30 pm.
Based on circumstantial evidence and witnesses’ accounts, inspector SK Umesh of JP Nagar police station and his team arrested Ray from Vijayawada on December 22, 2010.
Police seized Ray’s jerkin and spectacles, which he had worn at the time of the crime. They also confiscated the rope and knife he used for killing Payal.
However, Payal’s father, Deen Dayal Surekha, suspected Ananth’s involvement and filed a petition in the Karnataka High Court. Then he moved to Supreme Court, seeking a CBI probe. In 2015, the CBI filed a chargesheet reiterating the findings of JP Nagar police.