The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dowry fear drives family to death

Ranchi, March 20: Frustrated at not being able to arrange dowry, a middle-aged couple poisoned their five daughters before hanging themselves.

The bodies of Chandrika Singh (55), who worked in a petrol pump, and his wife Uma Devi (50) were found hanging from the ceiling of the sitting room of their single-storied house in P.N. Bose Compound this morning. Hanging next to them were the bodies of two daughters, Jaya and Rajshree, both 26.

In the adjacent room, the three younger daughters were found hanging: Sudha (22), Krishna (21) and Madhu (18).

Both Jaya and Rajshree had passed out from Marwari College last year. Krishna and Sudha were studying arts at Ranchi Women's College. Madhu was a student of Holy Cross School of the capital, but she had left her studies last year and was to appear in her board exams as a private candidate.

The Singhs' house was locked for the last two days. The neighbours, who described the family as a 'quiet' one, did not suspect anything as they thought they had probably gone out of town.

This morning, the residents of adjacent houses woke up to a stink coming out of the Singhs' house. 'We immediately informed the police. A rude shock awaited us all,' said a neighbour, Raju Kumar.

The police, after speaking to the neighbours, believe that Singh was worried about marrying off his daughters. 'From what we have learnt, Chandrika Singh and his wife were worried about arranging money for the marriage of their daughters. He earned a meagre salary and hardly had any savings. It appears that the marriage of two of their daughters had been fixed. But the man had no money to arrange for the dowry,' said an official of Lalpur police station.

No suicide note was found in the house.

Ranchi senior superintendent of police Anurag Gupta said: 'Prima facie it appears to be a case of suicide. All the houses in the locality are close to each other. If they had been murdered, there would have been some kind of noise and the neighbours would have heard it. We are waiting for the post mortem report.'

Preliminary findings suggest that the couple first administered insecticides, probably laced in their food, to their daughters and after they were dead, hung their bodies. They then hanged themselves. 'The bodies of the girls have gone black which suggests poison consumption,' said the Lalpur police station official.

The police are, however, keeping other options open as they have evidence of a scuffle in the house with all household items lying scattered. Singh has four brothers living in the locality, but they were not on talking terms. 'We will have a detailed conversation with them,' said an official.

Singh used to draw a monthly salary of Rs 2,000 from the petrol pump. Till last month, he owned a contract of a bicycle stand at Uphaar cinema. 'He was facing a major financial crunch when the contract was terminated,' said Akhilesh Upadhay, Singh's colleague at Jayshree Petrol Pump.

Upadhay too concurred with the neighbours that Singh may have been facing family problems. 'He was worried about the marriage of his daughters. But he was never clear about his plans. We had no idea what he was thinking about,' he said.

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