In a major breakthrough to the murder of senior journalist Gauri Lankesh, the Karnataka Police has taken 38-year-old KT Naveen Kumar into custody for allegedly ferrying the killer to Gauri's house on September 5, 2017.
Naveen, the suspected accused, who was caught by the crime wing of the state police's central crime branch on February 18, has been questioned in connection with the murder.
Later, he was also remanded to eight days in SIT custody by a city session court on Friday.
The news of his arrest broke out hours after a leading daily reported that a person had been held in connection with Gauri Lankesh murder and was taken into custody for investigation.
Naveen was arrested last week from KSRTC bus stand in Majestic area of Bengaluru with a 32-calibre gun and 15 live bullets.
According to SIT, Gauri's murderer belongs to the same group that was involved in the murder of scholar M M Kalburgi, CPI leader Govind Pansare in Kolhapur in 2015 and rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in Pune in 2013.
Moreover, ballistics examination has confirmed that the same weapon was used in all four murders.
"Naveen resembled the man who conducted a recce on September 3 and the morning of September 5," according to SIT.
"We had the footage from near Gauri’s house on those two days showing the biker on what appears to be a recce. Naveen’s posture on a bike resembles the man in the footage. We’re waiting for forensic confirmation that the recreated images of Naveen riding the bike matches the man in the CCTV footage,” the sources explained. “We have enough evidence to establish his presence in RR Nagar on September 3 and 5," the SIT source said.
"Naveen vanished for 15 days and surfaced later. He boasted to a friend that he had been involved in a big job. Naveen also asked the friend whether he was watching TV news and the latter asked him whether it was the Gauri murder. Naveen laughed it away but the friend tipped us off about it,” the sources added.
“Naveen admits only to harbouring four individuals from a right-wing organization. We have drawn their sketches based on his description. We are sure one of them, a man with a receding hairline killed Gauri," SIT sources concluded.
SIT tracked calls between Mangaluru and Goa last week which confirmed Naveen’s involvement in the same.
In reply to such assertion, Naveen in his police statement said, one of his friends from Mangaluru requested him to arrange the training camp. SIT claims, Naveen met his four friends at Maddur residence in July 2017. On the other hand, a Mysuru man filed a statement with a Bengaluru magistrate saying that he too was part of the camp, arranged by Naveen.
There are also reports that Naveen is a member of Hindutva outfit called the Hindu Yuva Sena and allegedly linked to the Sanatan Sanstha outfit and its affiliate the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti.
On the other hand, the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), West Bengaluru, negating it, said, "This is false. No arrests have been done by the SIT."
Police had later released sketches of two suspects and asked for public help to put a name to their faces but there hadn't been much of a headway. A reward of Rs. 10 lakh had also been announced for leads that lead to the arrest of the murderers.
Gauri was shot dead by unknown miscreants outside her residence in Bengaluru on September 5, last year.
She was the editor of the Gauri Lankesh Patrike, a tabloid known for 'anti-establishment' views.
Following her murder, several protests, across the country and especially in prominent parts of Karnataka, had taken place.
(With inputs from agencies)