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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Sangli suicide: Money lenders under lens, 20 arrested so far

On Monday afternoon, the families of Manik and his brother Popat — nine members in all — were found dead in their two houses at Mhaisal village in Maharashtra’s Sangli district in a case of suspected suicide by consuming poison.

Written by Sushant Kulkarni | Pune |
Updated: June 23, 2022 9:25:11 am
At the residence of the Vanmore family in Maharashtra’s Sangli district Tuesday. (Express Photo: Arul Horizon)

On Monday afternoon, nine members from the families of two brothers were found dead in their houses at Mhaisal town in Maharashtra’s Sangli district in a case of suspected suicide pact. Here is what we know about the case till now and what we don’t know yet.

The death of nine from a family in Sangli

On the afternoon of June 20 around 1 pm, two brothers Dr Manik Vanmore (49), a veterinarian and Popat Vanmore (52), an arts teacher, their mother, their wives, four children of the two couples — were found dead in two separate houses located a kilometer apart in Mhaisal. The families had moved to their present houses from their ancestral home in Mhaisal seven years ago. Primary examination pointed to consumption of a poisonous substance causing the death of all the nine persons. Dead bodies of Dr Manik, his mother Akkatai (72), Manik’s wife Rekha (45), their children Anita (28) and Aditya (15) and Popat’s son Shubham (28) were found dead at Manik’s house. Bodies of Popat, his wife Sangeeta (48) and daughter Archana (30) were found at Popat’s house. While neighbours paint a picture of a mild mannered and an aloof family, close family friends say that the Vanmore’s had been under stress in the recent past because of debt.

How did the incident come to light?

On Monday morning, some people who had routine contact with the family in the morning hours, got suspicious after the family members did not respond to them. The milkman who delivered the milk daily did not get any response to the knocks on the door, nor did the staffers at Dr Manik’s clinic get any response to their calls. Some people contacted a distant relative of the family who stays close by and asked her to come. When the relative and some others looked inside from the back door, they saw people lying on the ground unresponsive. Some people were sent to Popat’s house to tell them what had happened, and three more family members were found unconscious. Meanwhile the police arrived and after primary medical examination all nine were pronounced dead.

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What has the police investigation revealed till now?

The starting point of the investigation were the two suspected suicide notes recovered from the two houses. The notes suggest that the family members took the extreme step because of heavy debt. Based on the probe into the content of the suicide notes, the police initially booked 25 persons, most of whom had lend money to the family members and were allegedly pressurising them for repayment. 15 of these have been arrested and search is on for the remaining 10.

“The Vanmore brothers and some other members of their family had borrowed money on interest from the accused persons, most of whom the police have said are moneylenders. Although the brothers were regularly paying the interest amount, the lenders and other accused persons were repeatedly and publicly harassing them — mentally and physically,” the police have said, adding that the deceased persons ended their lives after the harassment became unbearable.

A senior police officer who did not wish to be named has said, “The suicide notes say that the family wanted to set up a steel item manufacturing unit and for that they had borrowed money. But we are verifying whether this is true and whether there was any actual movement towards setting up such a plant. We are trying to find out whether or not there are any more lenders. We are also probing how and under what circumstances were these loans taken and how was the money used.”

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When asked about the suggestions investment made by family members was linked to some scheme luring high returns, Sangli district superintendent of Police Dikshit Gedam said, “These are all theories. We are probing all possible angles in this case.” Officials have said that they are probing what happened to the money that the family had borrowed. “While some things are still unclear, some we are choosing not to share at this stage in the investigation,” said another officer.

The police have also invoked the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and Maharashtra Money Lending Regulation Act against the accused.

What aspects of the case are still unclear at this stage?

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It is still unclear what poisonous substance was consumed and how. “An empty unlabelled bottle, suspected of a poisonous substance was found at one house.” said the officer refusing to divulge further details whether or not the forensic examination and chemical analysis have identified the substance. Police officials have also said that at this initial stage of the probe, it was unclear whether all the members consumed the poisonous substance willingly or some of them were forced into doing so. “There were no signs of physical struggle at both the houses,” said an officer.

Ashwini Sawant, a close family friend of Vanmores, has told The Indian Express earlier, “I know that since the last few years, they have been under stress because of debt. Manik uncle used to tell me that they had invested in some scheme and they were waiting for high returns, which would not only pay off the debts but also leave them with a large sum. On one of two occasions they had asked me not to come to their house as some lenders had come.”

Police have also not released the total amount of borrowing of the family from the accused persons and under what circumstances these loans were and under what conditions and legal framework. Probe however suggests that some of the suspects are moneylenders and were charging higher interest rates, thus prompting cops to invoke Maharashtra Money Lending Regulation Act.

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First published on: 23-06-2022 at 01:33:42 am
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