A 25-year-old housewife was charred to death late on Monday in her A.T. Chatterjee Road residence, in the Jadavpur police station area. Her husband and one-year-old child suffered severe burns. Fire department officials recovered the charred body of Urmila Koyal and rushed husband Somnath, 31, and baby Soni to M.R. Bangur Hospital, after dousing the fire.
Neighbours saw flames in the Koyals’ ground-floor flat around 12.45 am on Monday. A few rushed across to break open the front door. Another set called in the fire brigade. Two fire tenders arrived to fight the blaze.
The neighbours claimed that the couple often quarrelled and their rift may have fuelled the fire. “Perhaps Urmila set herself ablaze after dousing herself with kerosene. Her husband may have burnt himself trying to save her. The smell of kerosene hung heavy in their apartment,” said an eyewitness.
“We suspect that either it was a case of suicide or an attempt to murder,” said a fire official.
According to additional officer-in-charge Suprabhat Dutta of Jadavpur police station, Urmila’s parents lodged an official complaint with the local police on Tuesday morning, alleging that their daughter was set on fire by her husband.
However, deputy superintendent of police (town) Humayun Kabir said the police were not sure whether it was a case of foul play or an accident.
“The possibility of a suicide attempt cannot be ruled out, either,” he added.
According to the Bangur Hospital authorities, both father and child are in a serious condition. “Somnath, who suffered 40 per cent burns, is still unconscious. He is under constant observation,” said a hospital source. “The child is speedily recovering and out of danger,” he added.
Police sources said they are trying to sort out who the child should be handed over to after he recovers fully.
“Investigation is underway but we must interrogate Somnath to find out what exactly happened. As he is in a serious condition, we have to wait till he recovers,” said deputy superintendent Kabir.