The deaths of nine members of a family in Mhaisal town of Maharashtra’s Sangli district that earlier were being investigated as suicides are now being looked into as murders by poisoning, after police arrested two people including a “mantrik” who had allegedly promised to help the family “unearth a hidden treasure” or guptadhan.
On the afternoon of June 20 around 1pm, two brothers, Dr Manik Vanmore (49), a veterinarian; and Popat Vanmore (52), an arts teacher; their mother, wives, four children of the two couples—were found dead in their houses located a kilometre apart at Mhaisal in Miraj taluka.
On Sunday, the police arrested Abbas Ahmedali Bagwan (48), a mantrik, and Dheeraj Suravase (30), his aide and driver—both residents of Solapur. The police are invoking murder charges against the duo after their alleged role in the nine deaths came to light.
Special inspector-general of police (Kolhapur range) Manojkumar Lohiya told The Indian Express, “We earlier considered the possibilities of all members committing suicide or two brothers committing suicide and poisoning others. But our probe now suggests that the nine family members were in fact murdered and we have arrested two persons for it. The Vanmore brothers were in contact with this mantrik who claimed he would help them unearth a hidden treasure. The suspect had taken a large sum of money from the family for this and he could have been worried that Vanmores would report him to the authorities. Primary investigation suggests that the previous night, the mantrik went to the houses and on the pretext of performing some rituals and gave the family members something to consume, like a prasad laced with a poisonous substance.”
When asked about the suicide notes recovered from the houses and who could have written them, Lohiya said, “The probe still suggests that notes were written by the two brothers. But what is suspicious about the suicide notes was the sequence. We have observed in many cases that people first state the reasons and then name the persons responsible. In this case, it was exactly the opposite. Also the notes do not categorically say they were going to end their lives. It now seems that the brothers were misled into writing those notes. We are still probing that angle.”
As for the 25 people booked earlier, Lohiya said, “The case is now taking a different direction. As the probe progresses, we may file an application to discharge these people who were charged with abetment of suicide.”
The police are now trying to ascertain how the poisonous substance was administered to the family members in two houses, but have not revealed the substance.
The investigation took a different turn after the police found out that Vanmore brothers had been meeting some people who claimed to have powers to “unearth hidden wealth” or guptadhan. The two brothers had borrowed large sums of money from people to pay the mantrik from the from time to time over the past few years. The investigation suggests the mantrik and his aide had visited Vanmores’ houses on many nights including the one before the day when the deaths came to light.
Asked whether the anti-superstition law would be invoked in the case, superintendent of police Dikshit Gedam said, “We will take a call on that as the investigation progresses.”
Dr Manik was found dead at his house along with his mother Akkatai (72), wife Rekha (45), their children Anita (28) and Aditya (15), and Popat’s son Shubham (28). The bodies of Popat, his wife Sangeeta (48) and daughter Archana (30) were found at his house.