The Indian owner of the global restaurant chain Saravana Bhavan, who was convicted of murder, has died at the age of 71, his lawyer says.

P Rajagopal died in a hospital in the south Indian city of Chennai nine days after the Supreme Court rejected his plea seeking bail on medical grounds.

He planned the murder of an employee because he wanted to marry the man’s wife.

The popular chain has 80 outlets across the world and employs thousands.

Rajagopal had been battling to avoid jail since he was sentenced in 2009. But his final plea was rejected by the court on 9 July.

He is reported to have suffered a heart attack in recent days.

He has been nicknamed the “dosa king” after the South Indian dish which is served at his restaurants. There are branches in major global cities, including New York, London and Sydney.

The restaurant tycoon was reportedly determined to marry the wife of one of his employees, based on the advice of an astrologer.

In 2001, when the woman’s husband went missing, she filed a police complaint against Rajagopal. Her husband’s body was later found in a forest and police confirmed that he had been strangled.

A local court first convicted Rajagopal in 2004 and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. But this was increased to life in prison by the high court in Chennai in 2009.

In March, the murder conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court.

When his final appeal on medical grounds was rejected on 9 July, he turned himself in at the court in Chennai but was admitted to hospital on the same day.


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