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

An image of

An image of"Dosa King P. Rajagopal is printed on the menu at one of his restaurants in Chennai IndiaMore

P Rajagopal, the owner of the Saravana Bhavan chain of restaurants, has died in hospital a week after he surrendered to serve a life sentence for the 2001 kidnapping and murder of an employee.

An Indian restaurant tycoon known as the "Dosa King" died in hospital today, a week after beginning a life sentence for the murder of a love rival. But this was increased to life in prison by the high court in Chennai in 2009.

Rajagopal had surrendered in court on 9 July in an ambulance wearing an oxygen mask. The motive for the killing was to marry Shantakumar's wife Jeevajothi, who was the daughter of a former employee - an assistant manager - in his hotel.

In the 1990s, Rajagopal, who had two wives, was interested in marrying Jeevajyothi. He was first admitted in a government hospital after surrendering at the Court and later shifted to a private.

The turn of the millennium saw Rajagopal's murder conviction tarnish the great Saravana Bhavan story. However, Jeevjyothi married Shanthakumar in 1999 after refusing Rajagopal's proposal. In death, the 72-year-old founder of the world-famous Saravana Bhavan chain of restaurants, will no doubt, be remembered for creating India's answer to McDonald's. Her father used to work at a Saravana Bhavan outlet.

Five years ago, in an autobiography titled "I set my heart on victory", Rajagopal described his success story. In the aftermath of his crime, Rajagopal spent more time outside of prison than behind bars, citing health complications.

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A few days later, Santhakumar was kidnapped from Chennai and taken to Kodaikanal, where he was murdered, according to the case against Rajagopal.

Rajagopal had allegedly threatened the couple and demanded that they separate. Her husband's body was later found in a forest and police confirmed that he had been strangled.

2003 - Fresh charges filed against Rajagopal for intimidating Jeevajtohi and offering her Rs 6 lakh as bribe.

His appeal against the Madras High Court order upholding the trial court's judgement convicting him was rejected by the apex court in March this year.

However, a determined Rajagopal is said to have turned his focus on quality, laying high stress on oil and fresh vegetables, a feature still commended by his patrons.

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