No ordinary dowry death

Vijayasenan runs a small business at his hometown Eram, Kollam and Manimeghala is a school teacher. They wanted to provide their daughter Uthra—a specially-abled girl—a stable life and so, they gifted her and their son-in-law Sooraj with 98 sovereigns of gold jewellery as dowry. Acquiring all that wealth for himself allegedly turns out to be one of the reasons for Sooraj’s heinous crime. But this is no ordinary dowry death.

The police are yet to unveil the motive behind the crime. However they pointed out that most of the gold was missing from the bank locker on March 2, where Sooraj and Uthra held a joint account. Uthra was found dead due to snake bite at her home on March 7. Uthra’s brother strongly suspects the involvement of Sooraj’s family in the crime, especially his sister. Uthra’s family alleged that she had to undergo domestic violence from Sooraj’s family. However Sooraj’s family denied the allegation.

According to the Police, Uthra, 26, was killed by her husband Sooraj, using an Indian Cobra he bought from a snake–catcher, Suresh, a native of Kalluvaathukkal. The police arrested Sooraj, a private bank employee from Adoor in Pathnamthitta district and Suresh, the snake-catcher who supplied the cobra and Russell’s viper, on charges of murder on May 24 after investigation.

Vijayasenan’s home ‘Vishu’ is now a crime scene and several dramatic events unfolded as the police brought his daughter’s killer to his home for evidence collection this morning. Her distressed mother, Manimeghala, is yet to come out of the shock. The police have found the container in which Sooraj kept the snake.

Uthra’s parents had approached Rural SP Harisankar with a complaint and shared their doubts about the death of her daughter as it was only a couple of months ago that she had survived a snake bite. Uthra went to sleep in an air-conditioned room and her mother made sure that the windows were closed. This raised questions about the entry of the snake and suspicion of foul play which led to the investigation and the arrests.

“He watched the snake bite her twice. On the morning of May 7, Sooraj came out of the room as usual and Uthra’s mother found her unconscious,” the police official said. She was declared dead on arrival at the hospital. The Cobra found in Uthra’s house was later captured and killed. Experts on snakes point out that a sleeping person would wake up with a start if bitten by a snake. But Uthra had not woken up even after the snake bit her twice. The police are awaiting the autopsy report to arrive at an accurate conclusion on the matter to verify if Uthra was sedated.

According to the police the snake-catcher had been involved in illegal trade practices of selling reptiles. The case is being investigated by a team led by district crime branch DySP A Ashokan. Rural SP Harisankar will monitor the probe. Harisankar said that they initially found many loopholes in Sooraj’s statement. According to him, this is a never-seen-before case and more details could emerge in the coming days.

The Child Welfare Committee has asked Sooraj’s family to hand over Uthra’s one-and-half-year-old son to her parents after they sought custody of the child.

Accused Sooraj (in green) and snake-catcher Suresh

Timeline of the Murder Mystery (according to the police)

Around February: Sooraj bought Russell’s Viper from snake–catcher Suresh

February 29: Uthra found a snake in the second floor of Sooraj’s house in Adoor. Sooraj caught the snake by hand and put in a sack.

March 2: First attempt to murder Uthra using Viper at Sooraj’s house in Adoor . The attempt failed. Uthra was hospitalized

April 22: After weeks of stay in the hospital, Uthra was discharged and went to her home in Eram at Anchal to recuperate.

April 24: Sooraj again met snake-catcher Suresh and bought Indian Cobra

May 6: The final attempt. Sooraj kept the snake in a jar and hid it in a bag under Uthra’s bed. Sooraj put the snake on Uthra and got bitten twice. Uthra dies.

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