LANCE NAIK Roy Mathew, 33, last spoke to his wife, Finny, on the night of February 25. His younger brother, John, said Mathew was worried about the sting video uploaded by news website The Quint, in which he had spoken on the “sahayak” or “buddy” system in the Indian Army.
Mathew was found hanging from the ceiling of an abandoned barrack in the Deolali Army Cantonment on Thursday.
While the website has removed the video with the report, “Soldier or Servant?”, uploaded on February 23, police sources said Mathew spoke about doing personal chores for his superior officer.
The Quint did not respond to multiple requests made to co-founder Ritu Kapur through calls, text messages and email, seeking answers to a questionnaire on the report and Mathew’s death.
“Roy was weeping when he spoke to his wife. He said he had been called for an inquiry by higher officials… After saying he was in trouble, he ended the call,’’ said John.
According to Mathew’s family, his phone remained switched off after that. For days, they had no news about him. The worried family sent a petition to the Army chief, through local MP Suresh Kodikunnil, seeking a probe into the incident. Then on Thursday, they were informed about his death.
The Nashik police have registered an accidental death report under Section 174 of the CrPC. Police sources said Mathew is suspected to have committed suicide a few days ago as the body was in a decomposed state.
“The post-mortem has ruled out foul play and has stated it is death due to hanging,” said a police official. Sources said the police were probing if he had been “provoked” by anyone.
DCP Shrikant Divare said they were probing the circumstances leading to the death. “So far, neither the family nor the army have complained. We have recovered a diary (in Malayalam), which we are translating to investigate if he was under any stress. We have also learnt about the sting operation featuring him, and we will probe if that led him to commit suicide,” he said.
Meanwhile, the army issued a press release stating that “guilt” may have driven Mathew to commit suicide. “Preliminary investigations have now revealed that the suicide may be the result of a series of events which were triggered by media personnel managing to video-graph the deceased by asking leading questions on his duty as buddy without his knowledge. It is very likely that the guilt factor of letting down his superiors or conveying false impression to an unknown individual led him to take the extreme step,” it said.
“The identities of the army personnel in (video) clipping were hidden, and thereby not known to the army. Hence, there is no question of any enquiry that could have been ordered against the deceased,” it said. “A complaint has been lodged with local police and an enquiry has been ordered by army authorities to investigate the circumstances leading to his death… From February 25 onwards, this individual was declared absent without leave and apprehension roll was registered with the police as per existing order, till the body was recovered from an abandoned barrack,” said the statement.
At Mathew’s home in Pavithrasekharam village, in Kollam district of Kerala, his brother said although his face was not shown in the sting video, “one could easily identify Roy from the visuals”. Stating that Mathew was “under severe tension” after the video was uploaded, he said, “The media cheated him… His family has lost their sole breadwinner… Roy never knew that the journalist was secretly shooting him.”
Mathew’s wife, Finny, is unemployed. His father ekes out a living from a small shop, while his mother works in a private cashew factory. The family lost another son, Jacob, barely a year ago.
Mathew had joined the army about 14 years ago, and was planning to retire after a few more years of service. His cousin, Jijju John, said the army should have “enquired with his family and even started a search for him” when he went missing. “They should not have marked him absent without a probe,” he said.