| WIPED OUT
Calcutta, July 18: Last night, after the Saha family had had dinner and retired for the night, Soma saw Shibendu return to fetch from the refrigerator a soft drink bottle that had already been opened.
This morning, Soma — the domestic help — woke up later than usual. The door of one of the four bedrooms in the second-floor apartment was not fully shut. Through the small opening, she saw Shibendu hanging from the ceiling fan, tied to his wife’s sari.
On a divan in the same room lay Krishnendu, his younger brother. Dead.
Five other members of the family were in the other three bedrooms. All dead.
Thirty-three-year-old Shibendu poisoned his parents, Nabendu and Anubha, his wife Swati, two children, three-year-old Simanta and three-month-old Bedanta, and his brother and then hanged himself.
“When he took the bottle out of the fridge last night, I could not imagine dadababu could kill — even his own children — in such cold blood,” Soma said.
Shibendu, who used to run the family business, left behind a three-page note explaining the reasons for the murder of his family and his suicide at their south Calcutta residence on Tollygunge Road.
In the letter, Shibendu said income from the business — wholesale supply of flour and semolina and bakery products — was drying up. Money that he expected from a division of the family assets — his father Nabendu has five brothers — had also not come in.
Four of them occupy different floors of the Sahas’ five-storeyed house — the fifth lives elsewhere. Police have arrested one of them, Amalendu, a partner in the business, for abetting suicide.
Speaking on the basis of the suicide note, the police said they believed business trouble to be the reason for the murders and suicide. They would not reveal the rest of the contents of the suicide note but said there was enough in it for them to call other members of the family for interrogation, too.
Last night, Shibendu’s married sister, Jayashree, who was living in her parent’s house for the past week, left with her husband Biswajit after dinner around 9.30. The soft drink bottle Shibendu had bought in the afternoon was opened to serve them. He asked Soma to put it away in the refrigerator.
When the family sat down to eat — instead of the table they chose the floor — Shibendu asked to be excused. He said he was not hungry.
Dinner, cooked by Swati, consisted of chicken, dal, salad and nan. Soma had the same food, which rules out the possibility of the dinner having been poisoned. She was doing the dishes when Shibendu emerged out of his bedroom to take the bottle out.
He was sharing the bedroom with brother Krishnendu, an engineer working on a telephone project at Behrampore, who was visiting the family and was to return tonight.
The police suspect that Shibendu somehow succeeded in feeding the family the soft drink which was poisoned. Three-month-old Bedanta appeared to have been given the poison with baby food. A small bowl with remnants of baby food was found in the bedroom where Bedanta was sleeping with his mother.
The corner of Swati’s sari covered his little body. Swati’s arm rested on his legs. The neat arrangement was a feature the police found intriguing because it was common to all family members.
In one bedroom, grandmother Anubha lay on her side, one arm around three-year-old Simanta. His body was covered tidily by a bedsheet.
Head of the family, Nabendu, was in the fourth bedroom, wearing a lungi, the upper part of his body bare. Blood oozed out of one of his ears. A faint trickle lined the corner of his lips.
The police suspect the bodies were placed in their positions after death. The beds were unruffled, with no sign of having been slept in by the living.
A half-finished pint of whisky was found in Shibendu’s bedroom.
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