Hyderabad: The ability to wipe out any trail of the offence is what makes a criminal smart. Planning an offence that won’t leave any trails makes him even more smarter. Sooraj, a native of Anchal in Kollam district of Kerala, almost got away after hoodwinking everyone including the police, when he used what the court […]
Hyderabad: The ability to wipe out any trail of the offence is what makes a criminal smart. Planning an offence that won’t leave any trails makes him even more smarter.
Sooraj, a native of Anchal in Kollam district of Kerala, almost got away after hoodwinking everyone including the police, when he used what the court called a ‘rarest of the rare’ modus operandi to kill his wife, Uthara, 25, in May 2020. The weapons he used for the crime were live and slithering, venomous snakes including a viper and a cobra!
With snakebites being common and more over, Uthara having survived a snakebite just three months before (allegedly Sooraj’s attempt using a viper), neighbourhood talk of a ‘sarpa kopam’ (wrath of the snake) prepared a strong alibi for Sooraj. However, Uthara’s parents had doubts, and they filed a complaint with the police. What followed was a scientific investigation, which even went into how deep a snakebite would be, the length and breadth of a snakebite wound, different circumstances a snake might bite and so on. And in the end, undeniable circumstantial and scientific evidence came up making Sooraj confess to the crime, leading to his conviction on October 11.
The motive, Uthara’s parents and the police say, was dowry. More of it actually, since a big sum was already paid at the time of the wedding, and unquestioned access to Uthara’s jewellery and property, are said to have prompted Sooraj to resort to the macabre murder.
A man who always had pets at home, ranging from rabbits and goats to dogs, Sooraj’s search history from his mobile phone revealed that he had searched for the biting habits of a viper in early 2020 (Uthara was bitten by a viper in March 2020 but survived after 52 days in hospital), soon and after that, on the biting habits of cobras (the fatal bite by a cobra in May 2020). The police then managed to track down a local snake charmer, Suresh, who confessed to having given snakes to Sooraj. Call record details revealed both were in touch just before the crimes, with them meeting once just the day before Uthara was bitten.
Even then, police had the task of proving that Sooraj had made the snake to bite Uthara, and that it was not a natural snakebite. Police found that the viper that bit Uthara in March 2020 had done so when she was on the first floor of the house. Sooraj’s mother told the police that there was a tree branch leaning quite close to a first-floor window of the house, and that the snake could have got in through there.
The Kollam Crime Branch police, who probed the case under the leadership of the then Superintendent of Police (Kollam Rural) S. Harishankar, got help from experts, including popular snake charmer Vava Suresh, who told them that the Russell’s viper does not climb a tree. It usually attacks on the ground, and certainly won’t climb a tree to reach the first floor of a house. It had to be taken there.
As for the cobra, police found that she was bitten twice the night she died, which was quite unusual, especially because Uthara was sleeping and as per scientific studies, cobras do not strike twice in a short time unless provoked or forcibly made to, and they take a while to refill the venom too. Autopsy revealed that Uthara did not know the unbearable pain and did not wake up, because there was an unusually heavy dose of sedatives in her stomach, which Sooraj admitted to having given her.
The police also studied the snakebite wounds, with experts telling them that punctures caused by a 180 cm snake would be two centimetre apart. That snake that bit Uthara (Sooraj killed it the next day but the police found it and did a postmortem) was 150 cm long. The bite wounds on her body were 2.5 cm and 2.8 cm apart, which indicated an unnatural snakebite, which happens when someone forcefully holds the snake’s head and makes it bite. The police even did a dummy experiment, making a snake bite a dummy body under different circumstances. DNA tests on the snake proved that the snake given by Suresh, with samples taken from the container in which he gave the snake, and the one that bit Uthara were the same.
And then, Sooraj was said to be sleeping beside Uthara. Why would a snake bite her, that too twice, without attacking the person next to her?
Confronted with all these evidence and questions, Sooraj finally admitted that he had got the snake in a bottle into their bedroom, sedated his wife, and then made the snake bite her twice. Twice to make sure that she died, because she had survived the viper bite earlier.
The incident, with Sooraj’s sentence to be announced on October 13, will become part of Criminology syllabus, police said, adding that ‘Homicidal Snakebite’ would now be added to the crime lexicons of the Kerala Police.
There is a similar case in Rajasthan too, where a young woman, with the help of her illicit lover, allegedly killed her mother-in-law using a snake. These two are said to be the only recorded ‘Homicidal Snakebite’ cases in India, so far, apart from the ones we have so far seen in movies.
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