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SDM report confirms poisoning, Tharoor may be questioned

Summons were likely to be issued to the rest of Sunanda’s family as well.

New Delhi | Updated: January 22, 2014 8:58:37 am
Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor, 52, was found dead in Room 345 of the Leela Palace hotel on Friday evening. (Express Archive) Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor, 52, was found dead in Room 345 of the Leela Palace hotel on Friday evening. (Express Archive)

Police are likely to question union minister Shashi Tharoor in connection with the death of his wife Sunanda. The subdivisional magistrate on Tuesday directed the police to investigate the case after the autopsy report indicated the cause of death to be “poisoning”.

Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor, 52, was found dead in Room 345 of the Leela Palace hotel on Friday evening. This was two days after Sunanda alleged that her husband was having an affair with a Pakistani journalist.

The Indian Express had reported the key finding in the autopsy report on Tuesday.

SDM Vasant Vihar Alok Sharma handed over the inquiry report to the SHO Sarojini Nagar after meeting with the officer for an hour at his office in Kapashera. The inquiry, carried out by the magistrate under provisions of section 176 CrPc, has not revealed evidence of cruelty, torture or dowry harassment, sources said.

According to these sources, Sharma has said in the report that no member of the family has expressed suspicion of foul play in the death. The magistrate questioned 11 people, including the minister, Sunanda’s brothers Rajesh and Ashish Pushkar, her son Shiv Menon, her personal assistant R K Sharma, consultant Shiv Kumar, attendants Narayan and Bajrangi, two doctors who were the first to attend to her, and journalist Nalini Singh, with whom she spoke the night before.

Nalini Singh, sources said, had given a verbal statement to the SDM on Sunday, followed by a typed, two-page statement the day after.

Narayan, Sunanda’s attendant of four years, told the SDM that the Tharoors quarelled often, and had had an argument early on January 17, the day of her death. Narayan has told the magistrate that he gave Sunanda a foot massage at 6.30 am before leaving.

Narayan was replaced by Bajrangi, who was also the couple’s personal driver. He was on duty until 4 pm, when Narayan returned. Narayan then tried waking Sunanda twice along with R K Sharma, at 4.30 pm and 5.30 pm. After failing to get a response, he called Tharoor at 7.30 pm, who reached the hotel and opened the door with his key.

Sunanda was found inside. Rigor mortis had set in, suggesting she had been dead for at least four hours.

On Monday, hospital authorities said the autopsy had revealed the cause of death to be “poisoning”. Sources in the hospital said the upper part of her body bore at least a dozen marks of injury. Traces of the anti-anxiety drug Alprazolam were found in the body, but there were “no findings suggestive of drug overdose”.

Sources said the police would now investigate whether the death was suicide or homicide, and issue summons to Tharoor and the rest of Sunanda’s family including her father and brothers, whose statements would be recorded afresh. The SDM has not seen CCTV footage from the hotel, but the police were checking it to corroborate the statements of the eleven people questioned so far.

Sources said what caused the “poisoning” would be ascertained only after the viscera report is obtained from the Central Forensic Science Laboratory, where samples have been sent for examination.

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