The police on Monday rounded up the husband and father-in-law of a woman who died of burns, along with two daughters, in Belghoria on Saturday.
Initial reports said Tapati Das and her daughters Ishita, 5, and Rashmita, 2, died of severe burns sustained in a cooking-gas cylinder blast.
However, investigations revealed that the incident had been simulated as an accident and arrested Tapati’s husband Probir and father-in- law Kalipada on Monday for conspiring and conducting the “cold-blooded” murder.
“During investigations, we found two gas cylinders in the kitchen that were on. Generally, the one not in use is kept off,” explained J. Jayraman, additional superintendent of police, Barrackpore.
“We checked the cylinder weights and found both near-empty. Later, Tapati’s brother lodged a complaint that his sister had been murdered,” Jayraman added. Forensic officials visited the house on Tuesday to collect samples, the additional superintendent said, adding that the tests may help unravel how the murder took place.
Officials of Belghoria police station said they have interrogated Probir and other members of his family. “Our investigations revealed that Tapati and Probir didn’t share the best of relations,” an official said.
Initially, the family told the police that last Saturday, Tapati was home with her two daughters, while her husband went to a drug store to buy some medicines. At about 9 pm, one of the daughters went into the kitchen and switched on the light. Flames erupted immediately, as the leaked gas had filled the room.
Neighbours heard screams and saw the fumes and flames streaming out of the locked windows. They informed Probir, who runs a medicine shop nearby. Probir returned and opened the front door. Neighbours poured water on the burns sustained by Tapati and her daughters. Later, they died in R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital.
Investigations conducted by the police revealed that Probir’s family would torture Tapati and had not allowed her to visit her parents or a long time. There was a lot of mistrust and suspicion between husband and wife, police said.
“In fact, several of Das’ neighbours said that the couple often quarelled between themselves. We are not sure yet whether the quarrel was related to dowry,” said an officer of Belghoria police station.
The police suspect that Tapati and her daughters were murdered and the theory of a gas leak was put forward by her in-laws. They are probing what made Probir lock the door from outside and go to fetch medicines.
Tapati’s family alleged she had repeatedly told them that she feared for her life. Her in-laws had even turned down a request from her family to send her home, officials said.