Ranchi, July 16: A tribal farmer allegedly hacked to death a village head and his wife, apparently for practising witchcraft, between last night and early this morning around 28km from the Khunti district headquarters and 70km from the state capital.
Residents of Rumtukel, a village and panchayat of the same name, said local farmer Kharia Munda suspected the black magic practised by his neighbours - gram pramukh Panda Munda (45) and wife Anima Murum (40) - led to his buffalo dying last morning and had threatened to kill the couple.
As the tribal village, around 8km from the nearest Murhu thana, sleeps early, police got to know about the incident around 7am today from villagers who saw the bodies of the couple lying in a puddle of blood in an open room.
From the position of their bodies, it appeared that they had been sleeping when they were attacked.
Going by Rumtukel villagers, the murders took place after 8.15 last night, when the couple were seen alive, to 6am this morning, when their bodies were discovered. Without autopsy reports, police cannot ascertain when exactly the crime was committed.
Kharia and his family members are absconding.
Khunti SP Ashwini Kumar Sinha said it looked like a clear-cut case of a superstitious farmer killing his neighbours on the suspicion of witchcraft.
"With the help of villagers, the superstitious farmer has been identified as 40-year-old Kharia Munda, who is absconding. We are conducting raids at all possible locations for his arrest. His male buffalo died last morning and he suspected witchcraft done by his neighbours led to the animal's death," the SP said.
A villager said a sharp-edged weapon was used in the double murder.
"Seven to eight deep gashes on the bodies suggest that the farmer attacked the sleeping couple either with an axe or bhojali many times. He did not give them the opportunity to react, let alone fight back," the villager said over phone.
This is the first such case in Rumtukel, which falls in a rebel-hit Khunti pocket. SP Sinha added that he had directed the local police to campaign against superstition and step up vigil.