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Bottled death in dead of night

It was at around 2 pm on Saturday that Shibendu Saha returned home, a large soft drink bottle tucked under one arm. There was nothing to suggest that this was Act I of a terrible tragedy waiting to strike 91/3C, Tollygunge Road, in the dead of the night.

A 33-year-old man coming home on a holiday afternoon to his father, mother, brother, wife and two children with a soft drink bottle could not have struck anyone as odd. But by Sunday morning, the needle of suspicion for the deaths under one roof pointed firmly at the bottle — and its bearer.

Shibendu, police said, had poisoned the soft drink before serving it to the entire family — apart from his infant son whose baby food, apparently, acted as the agent of death.

July 17 had begun like any normal Saturday at the Saha home. Shibendu spent quite some time chatting with younger brother Krishnendu, who had arrived from Behrampore on Friday to spend the weekend.

This was again a “normal” family practice — Krishnendu would spend at least two weekends back home in Tollygunge, while working in Behrampore.

It was, in fact, a busy Saturday for the Sahas, what with Shibendu’s sister Jayashree coming over to spend time with the family and her husband joining them all for dinner.

But that was later. After chatting with his brother and sister, and after finishing lunch, Shibendu left home once again. He had some “business to attend to”, he told the family,

Police believe that this might have been the trip he made to pick up the poison that was to wipe out the entire family.

“While reconstructing the events leading up to the killings and the suicide, there are certain bits and pieces that we still have to put together. But from what we have found out so far, it seems that Shibendu had stepped out for a second time to collect the poison that killed the family,” asserted Anup Sharma, deputy commissioner (south).

From what police have gathered — mainly from maid Soma Das, and also from Shibendu’s sister Jayashree — Shibendu returned home at around 8 pm. He chatted with his wife and played with his kids, just as he would always do.

Shortly after that, Jayashree’s husband Biswanath dropped in for dinner and to take his wife back home.

“It was a typical family evening, with everyone chatting and having a good time,” Sharma said. “While the children played around, Shibendu and the others, including his parents and brother, had a good time.”

At around 9.30 pm, Biswanath and Jayashree decided to have an early dinner and leave for their Beleghata home. The two left for home soon after 10 pm.

The rest of the family sat down to dinner around 10.30 pm. Only Shibendu refused to join in. He said he wasn’t particularly hungry and asked the others to go ahead with their dinner.

This was the only thing that was “abnormal” about Shibendu’s behaviour in all of Saturday.

According to Soma, around 11 pm, after everyone had finished their dinner and were ready to retire for the night, Shibendu came to the refrigerator and took out the soft drink bottle.

After this, no one really knows what happened through the dark hours of Saturday night. By Sunday morning, seven members of the Saha family were dead.

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