The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Victim knew her killers
- Burgled almirahs opened with keys

My husband’s death was the saddest moment of my life… My sons are abroad and my daughter is in Mumbai. I wonder what will happen if I fall ill.

Laxmi Sundaram told Metro on July 10, 2003

Laxmi Sundaram was lonely and often insecure, a common fate of the elderly. The 70-year-old resident of 6, Bishop Lefroy Road not only knew her assailants, but in fact welcomed them into her home minutes before being murdered.

During preliminary investigations, police discovered that the killers were known to the victim and might even be close to the Sundaram family.

'Before opening the door, she knew who were there. She even spent a few minutes with them,' said an officer of the detective department's homicide wing. 'We found two glasses of half-finished soft drinks lying on the table in the dining room. Dipali Halder, liftman Hazari's wife, who was engaged by the victim as a part-time domestic help, confirmed that Sundaram liked the brand of soft drink we found in the glass. It appears that the murdered woman treated her killers to drinks.'

Sundaram's younger son, Rajkumar, a Washington DC-based executive of a leading cellular service provider who reached Calcutta on Friday, said: 'It seems the assailants are known to our family. Police had asked me to submit a list of our friends and relatives, which I have handed over. I have no idea about the value of the stolen articles because I have not entered the apartment yet.' Rajkumar's elder brother Dilipkumar is on his way from Detroit.

The woman from Vellore came to Calcutta over 45 years ago, post-marriage. She regretted not having learnt the language, but had carved a niche in the hearts of many Calcuttans. The founder-member and former chairperson of Dignity Foundation ran schools for underprivileged kids. Sundaram was also president of the South India Club ladies section, treasurer of the National Indian Women's Association, treasurer of National High School, president of Rotary Midtown Inner Wheel, a classical singer and dancer.

Gyanwant Singh, deputy commissioner (I) of the detective department, confirmed that she was gagged to death. There was no indication that she had been hit with a weapon. 'There was no sign of resistance in the dining room, where the body was found. She was lying on her back. She was gagged with dusters used to clean the floors,' he added.

Police found one almirah broken. The culprits had opened two more with keys. On Friday, police detained five people ' two liftmen, the gatekeeper and his son and the person who had gone to deliver an envelope to Sundaram's flat and discovered her body.

'We are also looking for a person who was an officer in the same company where the victim's husband had been a senior executive. We are investigating every possible aspect. The killers could be from any background,' said an officer.

Dignity Foundation said it was 'shocked, stunned and saddened' by the murder. A remembrance service has been organised on Sunday.

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