27-year-old Thushara was brought to the Kollam District Hospital on March 21. The frail woman, who is a mother of two, was declared brought dead by the hospital, but with suspicions being raised about the cause of death, her body was taken to the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College for an autopsy. More than a week after her death, what has emerged is the story of a sordid crime. According to the police, Thushara was starved for an unknown period of time by her husband and in-laws. The incident, which took place in Oyoor, Kollam, has sent shock waves across Kerala and several neighbours of the victim have now come forward to give their statements to the police.
Officers at the Pooyapalli station said that Thushara weighed just 20 kilograms at the time of her death. Marks on her body during autopsy also indicated that she was being tortured. The police on Friday arrested the victim’s husband Chandulal (30) and his mother Geetha (55). The duo have been remanded to judicial custody. The victim's two children are currently under the protection of Childline Kollam.
“There was not an ounce of flesh on her when she passed away. The doctor who performed the postmortem also confirmed that there were marks on her body which suggested that she was attacked by her husband and in-laws,” Sub-Inspector of Pooyapalli police station told TNM. According to reports, Thushara was also locked up in a room and only given sugar water and soaked rice to eat.
“We initially filed an unnatural death case. However, several neighbours told us that events leading up to the victim’s death were eerie. We began investigating and found out that this was a case of dowry harassment,” the SI added.
The accused: Husband Chandulal (30) and mother-in-law Geetha (55)
Occult practices in the house
A preliminary probe by the Kottarakkara Tahsildar in the case found that Chandulal and Geetha also indulged in occult practices.
“There is a temple in front of their house and during day time, they would have priests and palm readers visiting the house quite often. The victim, who was inside the house, has never been seen by their neighbours,” the SI added. Reports add that the house was suspiciously covered with tin sheets which made it difficult to notice what was going on inside.
Thushara's family stated that the accused family had moved from Prakkulam to Oyur after they were chased away by neighbours for allegedly indulging in occult practices.
In the last six years after their marriage, Thushara's family had been allowed to visit her only thrice, police added. The victim’s family also told the media that she had not been allowed to visit them in the last one and a half years.
"We had no idea that she was in this condition. They (the family) did not like us or any relatives visiting them and they were hostile. They did not even tell us or allow us to meet Thushara when she was pregnant. They also allowed her to use a mobile phone only for 2 months, after which they snatched it away from her and she could not even contact us," Thushara's brother Tushant told the media.
According to Thushara's family, they were to pay Rs 2 lakh to the accused in addition to the jewellery Thushara had after her marriage.
"However, they never demanded or asked us for the money. They just kept torturing my sister regularly. Most of the neighbours were also scared to intervene due to the occult activities in the house," Tushant added.
27 complaints filed
Several reports have stated that 27 complaints had been filed previously by neighbours who had heard screams from the house, however, no inquiry had taken place.
Contradicting this, the Pooyapalli SI stated that their station had not received any complaints till date. The investigation of the case has now been transferred to the Kottarakkara DYSP, he added.
“We have filed a case under Section 304(b) - Dowry death,” he said.