A special investigation team was formed Saturday to investigate the murder of four persons and the poisoning of another, all belonging to the same family, in Kuda village of Banaskantha district on Friday. The SIT was formed following pressure from the villagers. However, police suspect that the poisoned man killed his family members and consumed poison himself.
Farmer Karsan Patel, the patriarch, had a wife, two daughters and a son. On Friday morning, all except Karsan were found axed to death, and he was found unconscious, at their home.
“Prima facie it appears that Karsan may himself have murdered the four and poisoned himself. However no sound or movement was observed by neighbours, and there were no signs of a struggle,” Banaskantha Superintendent of Police Pradip Sejul, told The Sunday Express. “It makes us suspect that Karsan drugged the family members before killing them.”
Inspector General ( Border range) Dharmendrasinh Vaghela was quoted by news agency PTI as saying, “A five-member SIT has been formed to probe the matter after villagers held a sit-in and refused to receive the bodies from a community health centre until the murderers are arrested.” The SIT will be headed by deputy SP PH Chaudhary of Deodhar in Banaskantha district.
After the SIT was formed, villagers accepted the bodies.
Dr MM Prabhakar, superintendent of Civil Hospital, Ahmedabad said Karsan’s condition was critical late Saturday evening and he was on life support. He could give no statement until late Saturday evening. “He has probably consumed some poison. We have sent samples to the laboratory,” the doctor said.
SP Sejul said the police were awaiting a histopathology report, which would confirm their suspicion that the family was drugged, although the preliminary post-mortem report listed the cause of death of all four persons as injury to the neck from the axe.
The community of Chaudhary Patels to which the family belongs, demanded an investigation. PTI reported that villagers gathered outside the Lakhani community health centre and called for a bandh, saying an outsider was behind the crime.
“However, that does not explain the poisoning of Karsan,” SP Sejul said. “We have, however, not ruled out the possibility, and are looking into it.” He said the theory had emerged as the names of some family members and moneylenders had been found scrawled with charcoal on the walls of Karsan’s house. The villagers demanded that those named be arrested.
Police questioned those on the list but did not arrest anyone. “The scribbles will form part of our evidence and forensic experts will be called to analyse the handwriting,” said Sejul. “We have found an axe, which was the murder weapon, at the farm surrounding their house.”
Sejul said he suspected that Karsan might have taken the extreme step, as they were reeling under heavy debt. “The agricultural land that Karsan’s family had acquired was new and he was thus in debt,” he said. “Karsan’s son was a spendthrift too.”
The SP said that about six to eight months ago, before the family moved to Kuda village, they had paid off a debt in the village they had been living in earlier.
The family belongs to the lower or lower-middle class.
The bodies were found on Friday morning by a neighbour around 8 am, after Karsan didn’t show up past his usual time. “Based on this, we believe the murder must have occurred Thursday night or early Friday morning,” the SP said.
Karsan was taken to Civil Hospital in Lakhani taluka and subsequently shifted to Civil Hospital, Ahmedabad. The autopsies of his four family members were conducted at Civil Hospital in Lakhani on Friday.
An FIR has been lodged based on a complaint by Karsan’s brother-in-law Tejabhai Chaudhary Patel. Tejabhai The Sunday Express that he had not named anyone as accused.
(With PTI inputs)