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Family hunts for a tower to die

- MOM AND DAUGHTERS LEAP FROM SOUTH CITY

Calcutta, Aug. 31: An octogenarian lady and her two unwed daughters drove half a kilometre from home in search of a high-rise and leapt to their death from a more than 350-foot-high terrace at South City, carrying out a suicide pact that has left police puzzled.

Golf Green residents Amita Mukherji, 81, Mukuta, 47, and Kheya, 35, arrived at the South City complex —home to the city’s tallest residential towers — in their grey Maruti Zen last night. They told the guards they were visiting a flat on the 33rd floor, which later turned out to be a guesthouse for several public sector oil companies.

It’s not clear whether they entered Flat 33GH at all. They apparently waited more than four hours either on the staircase or the terrace before making their last move around 2.30am.

Mukuta, an environmentalist and a trained pilot, had been at the forefront of a case that led to a high court ban on concretisation of pond edges, which threatened frog populations. Sal pillars are used now. Kheya worked as a coach with the All Bengal Table Tennis Association, police said.

After guards heard the thuds and discovered the bodies, the residents of the complex of nearly 1,600 flats were asked on the public address system to see whether any family members were missing and to help identify the bodies. When none could, the police started checking the cars.

The Zen had a Golf Green Phase IVA sticker on it. On its dashboard lay a plastic packet from the RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences. The police got a garage mechanic to open the car lock.

The packet contained the medical reports of Nihar Mukherji, a retired government employee who had died in the hospital on Wednesday. His daughters had paid the medical bill of Rs 1.64 lakh and got the body released on Thursday evening.

Within hours, they and their mother had jumped to their death.

The police got Mukherji’s address from the institute and went to Golf Green, where two neighbours confirmed that the dead women belonged to the same family.

Officers were clueless tonight about the motive for the suicide, though they have found a note purportedly signed by all three.

The five-page note in Bengali, addressed to the vice-chancellor of Rabindra Bharati University, said the Mukherjis wanted their entire property — cash and assets — to be donated for Tagore studies.

The note, where the family described themselves as “rabindranuragi (Tagore lover)”, was found in a bag on the last staircase landing before the roof. The bag also contained their cash certificates, bank passbooks, PAN cards and voter identity cards

The note said the property must not go to the family’s relatives even if they claimed it, and that a family friend in Ballygunge should be contacted if any confusion arose. The police refused to identify the family friend.

A friend of the Mukherjis said Mukuta had told her she was “searching for a high-rise”, which she took to mean that Mukuta was hunting for an apartment. Mukuta later told her she had found one.

“There is no doubt that they had planned to end their lives. The note is a clear indication of a suicide pact. The reason, however, is not clearly mentioned,” joint commissioner of police (crime) Pallab Kanti Ghosh said.

Officers said the family did not appear financially unstable.

Mukuta and Kheya had met Rabindra Bharati vice-chancellor Sabyasachi Basu Roy Chaudhury on August 23 and 29 to express their father’s wish to donate his belongings for Tagore studies.

Neighbours at Golf Green said that apart from Mukuta, the Mukherjis did not interact with them much but the daughters cared deeply for their father. They had seen them take him to hospital in an ambulance. But none of them knew Nihar had passed away.

The police said the three women entered South City twice, first at 7.57pm — about an hour after claiming Nihar’s body from the hospital — and later at 10pm, both entries having been recorded at the complex’s main entrance.

No records are kept of cars leaving the premises; so it is not clear when the Zen, “driven by a woman” according to the guards, had left the complex after the first entry.

The register in the lobby on the ground floor of Oak Tower I, from where they jumped, shows they entered the building at 11.45pm.

The caretaker of Flat 33GH has denied receiving them.

CCTV cameras in the lobby captured Kheya heading to the elevator around 11.45pm. An officer said she wore a “pant and top”. Her mother was in a sari and Mukuta in a salwar-kameez.

“Only Kheya’s face was intact (after the jump). We identified her from the picture on her voter I-card,” said joint commissioner Ghosh.

Mukuta and Amita had fallen almost at the same spot, about 20 feet from the building. Kheya lay a few metres away. So severe was the fall that a garden light post which she hit on her way down was uprooted.