The police team pored over previous cases and instances where an accused had used a poisonous snake as a murder weapon.

A screengrab from the wedding video of Uthra and SoorajYouTube screengrab
news Crime Monday, October 11, 2021 - 19:27

The prosecution’s strong case against Sooraj, who was accused of murdering his wife Uthra by making a cobra bite her in her sleep in May 2020, sealed his conviction on Monday, October 11.  Sooraj, who had tried to use a viper and then set a cobra on his wife to kill her, was found guilty under four sections of the Indian Penal Code — 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 328 (poisoning) and 201 (Causing disappearance of evidence of offence). The court will pronounce the quantum of punishment on Wednesday, October 13. 

For the Kerala police, it was not an easy job to prove their case. The team pored over previous cases and instances where an accused had used a poisonous snake as a murder weapon. It was then they realised that most verdicts in such cases ended up in acquittals. 

"We studied three-four similar cases — two cases that happened within a family and one that was a case of trying to kill a coworker using a snake. We studied the judgments of these cases. The incidents happened in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. In the judgments, the major fault cited was that murder couldn't be proved," said Hari Sankar, then Superintendent at Kollam (Rural) and now the Inspector General at Kerala police headquarters.

This needed to be changed. So, two cases, in particular, were studied by the Kollam police — a 2011 case from Nagpur, where a man was accused of killing his father and step-mother by setting a cobra on them, and the second was a 2019 case from Indore in Madhya Pradesh, where a husband was accused of smothering his wife with a pillow and then trying to brush it off as a snakebite death. 

Also read: Kerala court finds husband Sooraj guilty of using a cobra to kill wife Uthra

One of the steps that the police took to prove the snakebite was not natural was to conduct the much-talked-about ‘dummy’ test to reconstruct the murder. They brought in a cobra and placed it near a dummy to determine the nature of their bites and provide scientific evidence to back their case. They tried various methods to see what made the cobra strike the dummy and once it did, the team studied the bite marks, measured them, and then compared them to Uthra’s wounds. This is how they found out that there is a difference between a natural bite and when a snake is caught and a bite is induced.

Read: Video: Kerala police try to reconstruct Uthra’s murder using a cobra and dummy

Speaking about the investigation in the case after the verdict, Kerala DGP Anil Kant said that the investigating team brought in experts from various fields, including snake catchers, to prove that Uthra died of a planned snakebite. 

Twenty-five-year-old Uthra was found dead in her parents’ home in Kollam on May 7, 2020. She had been bitten by a venomous snake that her husband Sooraj had bought from a snake catcher. Sooraj had confessed to the police that he gave Uthra sleeping pills and made the snake bite her. 

Also read: Scientific and circumstantial evidence proved vital in the Uthra snakebite case

With inputs from Saritha S Balan

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