Calcutta, Sept. 28: Lila Deb, an 87-year-old mother of five who had been living on her own at her Lake Gardens flat over the past decade, was found murdered this afternoon.
Twelve-year-old Saurav, her tenant's son, returned from school and came looking for the keys. After a few knocks and no response to the doorbell, he pushed open the door, saw a gaping almirah and rushed to raise alarm.
Deb was found lying on the floor, close to her bed with her throat strangled with a sari. The mother of two sons ' engineers settled in Illinois and Chicago ' and three daughters ' married in Siliguri, Agartala and Nashik ' had a part-time maid, who had taken leave for the day.
Ramgopal Chowdhury, one of Deb's sons-in-law, said: 'Maa was very active and did the shopping and cooking herself. She was very proud of the fact that she lived alone. Even if she went to live with any of her children, she would return in a fortnight.'
Of the two almirahs in Deb's bedroom, the one that she used was ransacked. All valuables were missing. The gold chain she wore round her neck and the gold topping on her bangle were not there.
Police said the assailants were aware of when Deb would be off guard and, therefore, chose the time she would finish her bath and perform her everyday puja.
A year-and-a-half ago, Deb rented out a part of her sprawling flat at 164B/1 Lake Gardens to Saurav's father, S.K. Khaitan. A businessman with a son and daughter, he last saw Deb around 10.30 am, while leaving for office. 'You are late today,' she had said.
With the valuables missing, early investigations suggest it was a murder for gain. The police are investigating whether the 40-year-old help, who lives in a shanty off the nearby railway gate, had a role to play in the crime.
This is the second incident in two months in which an elderly woman living alone has been murdered. Lalita Devi Goenka, 71, was brutally murdered in her Alipore flat, allegedly by her domestic help.
Khaitan, who also called Deb maa, said: 'Yesterday, her maid came to say she had hurt her foot and would not come for two days.'
With his mother away to get his sister from school, Saurav had to fetch the keys to their flat from Deb.