India’s ‘Dosa King’ dies months after losing appeal against murder conviction

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Saravana Bhavan staff pay tribute to the restaurant chain’s founder, P Rajagopal, in Chennai. Photograph: P Ravikumar/Reuters

NEW DELHI: An Indian restaurant tycoon known as the “Dosa King” died in hospital Thursday (Jul 18), a week after beginning a life sentence for the murder of a love rival.

P Rajagopal, 71, was convicted for the murder of his love interest’s husband in 2004, but only went to jail this month when the Supreme Court rejected his final appeal.

He reportedly became obsessed with the woman, then in her 20s, who was already married and had rejected his advances. He harassed, threatened and tried to blackmail her, and hired a gunman to kill the woman’s husband. One attempt was unsuccessful, but the man’s body was later found in a forest in Tamil Nadu.

Rajagopal had fought for 15 years to avoid prison but was ordered to surrender last week. He gave himself up at the high court in Chennai, arriving in an ambulance with an oxygen mask strapped to his face.

A court in the southern Indian city of Chennai in 2009 handed Rajagopal a life term for kidnapping and killing the husband of a woman he wanted to marry.

The Supreme Court in March upheld that decision.

“He was transferred from another hospital day before yesterday and has been on ventilator support. He passed away around 10:39 A.M. today,” a spokesman at the Vijaya Health Center in Chennai said.

Rajagopal was 72, according to the Times of India newspaper.

Saravana Bhavan, a vegetarian hotel chain Rajagopal started in the early eighties in Chennai, has branches across India and in the United States, Britain, Australia and Singapore, among others.

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