The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Neighbours clueless in family suicide

Poverty forced a woman, her two daughters and her son to commit suicide at their Thakuranichawk residence, in Thakurpukur, on Monday. The mother, a daughter and the son hanged themselves, while the second daughter consumed poison.

The police found out that a real-estate deal could have triggered the suicides. “The family was desperately in need of cash. They agreed to sell two-thirds of their 10-cottah plot at Rs 16,000 per cottah, several thousands less than the present rate of land in that area. They were, perhaps, negotiating with promoters and would have received the advance within days. Now, we are trying to verify why the family wanted to sell the land,” said Subhankar Chatterjee, deputy superintendent of police (town), South 24-Parganas.

The victims were identified as Malati Pal, 65, her daughters Jaya, 37, and Saraswati, 34, and son Prabhash, 35. “Malati, Jaya and Prabhash committed suicide by hanging themselves, while Saraswati took poison. Nonetheless, no suicide note was found in the house. We have sent the bodies for post-mortem. The doctors told us it was a clear case of suicide,” said deputy superintendent Chatterjee.

A few years ago, the eldest son of the family, Niranjan, had committed suicide. “We found his body hanging from a tree in their house. He was mentally deranged,” revealed Biswajit Kar, a neighbour.

According to other neighbours, the family had been going through a financial crisis for the past few years. They did not have a breadwinner. Younger daughter Saraswati had started selling fruits in the Behala Sakherbazar area. But that was not enough to feed all of them.

Ganesh Mandal, their neighbour, first saw Malati hanging from the ceiling. “It was around 5.30 am and I had left my house for my morning walk. I was crossing their courtyard, which is a shortcut to the playground nearby. I noticed their bodies hanging through the window,” said Mandal, adding: “Soon, I called in the other neighbours.”

Residents of the area went to the other corner of the single-storeyed house and found Jaya hanging from the grille of their verandah. “We looked into the other rooms to find Saraswati lying on the floor. Blood was oozing out of her mouth and nose. Prabhash, too, was hanging from the ceiling of the same room. We then informed the Thakurpukur police station,” recounted Jayanta Mandal, a neighbour.

Police rushed to the spot and broke open the door. They found that Malati and Jaya had used saris to hang themselves. Prabhash tied a dhoti around his neck and hanged himself from the ceiling. Younger sister Saraswati had consumed poison.

The neighbours are clueless. “The family settled down here 20 years ago. They came from Daspara, in the Thakurpukur area. They purchased a 10-cottah plot here and built a single-storeyed house. Malati’s husband died of a heart attack 10 years ago. Since then, poverty has dogged the family,” said Ganesh, who lives a few doors away.

Deputy superintendent Chatterjee said he had traced the promoters and others who wanted to buy the land. “We will interrogate them. We are sure that it is a case of joint suicides. Now, we are stepping up our probe into the case. What exactly led the family to commit suicide will be clear within a day or two,” Chatterjee asserted.

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