H.L. Suresh, who was arrested by the Special Investigation Team on Thursday in connection with the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh, led the police on a merry chase. He was even treated as a witness after he convinced them that he was only a landlord who had no idea that his tenants were Hindutva hardliners plotting a hit.

The main accused in the murder conspiracy, Sujith Kumar aka Praveen, and the alleged gunman who pulled the trigger, Parashuram Waghmore, stayed in the house owned by Suresh in Seegehalli days before the murder. All the accused vacated the house on the night of the murder.

“At first, we believed that he unwittingly let out his house to the accused and, hence, treated him as a witness,” said an SIT official. The SIT, however, now claims that in the light of new information following recent arrests, Suresh was not only in the know of the conspiracy, but was also an active member of the group. “Suresh played the role of host, prepared food for the men, and later destroyed evidence,” a senior police officer said.

Suresh claimed no knowledge of the conspiracy and his statement had been recorded before a magistrate under Section 164 of the CrPC, said the police officer. “Now, however, we have evidence which points to him playing an active role in the conspiracy,” the officer claimed.

‘Key aide to Amol Kale’

Suresh, who hails from Tumakuru, is believed to be a key aide of Amol Kale, one of the main handlers in the plot. According to SIT sources, he was an active member of a Goa-based Hindutva organisation from at least 2008. The police unearthed reports from the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti’s website showing Suresh taking part in its activities a decade ago.

Sources said that for the last 10 years, he had been working in Karnataka, indoctrinating youth and hosting lectures and exhibitions in schools and colleges.

In July 2017, Kale allegedly roped in Suresh in the plot to assassinate Gauri, and asked him to arrange accommodation in Bengaluru, as he was familiar with the real estate market.

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