The building where the lady lived in a third-floor flat. (Sayantan Ghosh)
The 76-year-old widow of a merchant navy officer was found dead on Friday morning in her one-room Gariahat flat locked from outside.
Police say the state of decomposition of Papari Mitra’s body suggests that she died at least 72 hours ago and has almost ruled out the possibility of finding out whether there was any foul play.
“The body is so badly decomposed that it is impossible to see injury marks even if there were any. The post-mortem report will help us ascertain whether the lady died a natural death or of suffocation,” said Pallab Kanti Ghosh, joint commissioner of police, crime.
All gold ornaments Mitra had been wearing as well as the ones kept in the almirah of the apartment — together worth Rs 4 lakh — were intact.
“We did not find any sign of resistance in the room. The ornaments she was wearing and those kept in the almirah were all intact. The mystery lies in the fact that the flat was locked from outside,” Ghosh added.
A sleuth said the lights in the room were on, suggesting the woman had died after evening. “A domestic help used to come to her flat twice daily. We are trying to find out her identity,” said an officer.
The flat at the Rashbehari Avenue-Fern Road crossing, which Mitra’s in-laws had taken on rent 40 years ago, mostly stayed empty till the lady moved in following her husband’s death in 2006. Before that she lived at her in-laws’ house on Swinhoe Street in Ballygunge. The couple were childless.
Acquaintances said Mitra was last seen on Monday evening. “I saw her on Monday. She was complaining about the cold weather,” said Sunil Dey, who runs an electrical goods shop on the ground floor of the four-storeyed building that housed Mitra’s flat on the third floor.
“She had gone to a grocery shop at Lake Market on Monday. I dropped her home and parked the car in her garage in Kasba. Since then her phone had been switched off,” recalled Gopal Chakraborty, who had been driving Mitra’s car for 30 years. “I came to her house on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning. But on all three occasions the door was locked from outside.”
On Friday, Chakraborty alerted Mitra’s brother, who lives in an adjacent building, and one of her cousins. The two checked with all other relatives before lodging a missing diary with Gariahat police station.
“A stench hit us the moment the police broke open the door. Didi was lying dead on the bed, the bloated body wrapped in a quilt. Her cell phone was lying beside her, switched off,” said Kiriti Sengupta, Mitra’s younger brother and former assistant commissioner of Calcutta police.