Police say the husband named Sooraj made a first attempt on his wife Uthra with a viper and when it failed, he bought a cobra.

Uthra and Sooraj a couple from Kerala in which Uthra died of a cobra bite
news Murder Monday, May 25, 2020 - 14:43

“He killed my daughter, he cannot enter my house. Do not bring him inside,” Manimeghala wailed as around 10 police personnel entered her house with a man in a green T-shirt. The man is her son-in-law Sooraj, accused of killing her daughter in their house, with the help of an Indian cobra, a highly venomous snake often found in agricultural lands, wetlands and forests.

Over the weekend, Kerala watched the details of a ghastly crime unfold. A young woman named Uthra was found dead in her parents’ house and weeks later, her husband Sooraj was arrested for allegedly killing her. And according to the police, this was not Sooraj’s first attempt to kill Uthra using a snake.

On May 7 morning, Manimeghala, who lives in Anchal in Kollam district with her husband Vijayasenan, tried to wake their daughter up, but in vain. Uthra, who had been recovering from a snake bite, lay on the bed motionless. The family rushed her to a hospital to find that she had passed away and that she had been bitten by a snake again. When they got back to the house, Uthra’s parents, Sooraj and her brother Vishu, found an Indian cobra under a cupboard in the bedroom. The snake was killed and buried behind their house.

Though Uthra’s death would have been written off as one by snakebite in a state like Kerala where 56 people have died the same way in the last five years, Uthra’s parents had their doubts.

The family had given 784 grams of gold and a car to Uthra when she got married to Sooraj in 2018. Uthra, a homemaker, and Sooraj who worked with a private finance company, have a one-year-child. 

On March 2, Uthra was bitten by a venomous viper snake outside her husband’s house in Adoor in Kerala. She was taken to a hospital where she battled for her life for days. It was only on April 22 that Uthra was discharged and she went home with her parents.

Uthra, however, told her parents later that she had seen the viper lurking around the house. “This aroused suspicions in me. Also, she was bitten by the snake around 8.30 pm, but taken to the hospital only around 3 am. Why was that? Moreover, I knew Sooraj wanted more money,” Uthra’s father Vijayasenan told the media.

They approached the police with their suspicions after their daughter died on May 7. 

“The woman’s parents had their set of doubts with regard to Sooraj. From his behaviour post her death to past conversations with their daughter, they decided to raise their suspicion,”  District Crime Branch DySP A Asokan told TNM.

The police investigation then focused on why and how Sooraj procured the snake. 

According to the police, Sooraj has confessed that he used to watch YouTube videos of snake catchers on his phone. “He was also part of a group of wildlife enthusiasts. Besides, a Google search will throw up lots of numbers of local snake catchers. He seems to have gotten in touch with Kaluvathikal Suresh, a snake catcher, in this manner,” DySP A Asokan said. It must be noted that confessions taken during investigation are not admissible as evidence during trial.

The alleged attempts

As Sooraj was taken to Uthra’s house for evidence collection on Monday morning, he shouted to his father-in-law that he had not killed Uthra. Sooraj’s parents meanwhile have given multiple interviews to media houses, and claimed that this was a false case and that Sooraj was being trapped by Uthra’s family.

The police, however, say that when the attempt with the viper failed, Sooraj bought the cobra for Rs 10,000 and transported it to Uthra’s house. 

“When she was sleeping, he took the cobra out of the jar in which he had kept it. He put the snake on her and watched as the snake bit her twice. However, Sooraj could not catch the cobra again, and therefore, in the morning, he left the room as if nothing had happened. Our case is that he watched her die,” Kollam Rural Superintendent of Police Hari Sankar told the media.

Meanwhile, snake catcher Suresh’s son Sanal confirmed to the media that Sooraj had approached his father twice. “He told my father that there was a rat infestation. First he got a viper from him, he said he wanted it for a day. He didn’t return the snake. A month later he asked for a cobra. When I read about Uthra’s death in the paper, I had told my dad to go and tell the police everything, but he didn’t. Now the police are calling him a co-conspirator,” he said.

It is unclear if Sooraj had made more than two attempts with snakes to kill Uthra. “Once, Uthra was asked by Sooraj to get his mobile phone from near the staircase at his house. When she went to fetch the phone, there was a snake there. She got scared and told Sooraj about the snake and he allegedly picked up the snake with his hand and disposed of it outside the house,” DySP Ashok told TNM.

On Monday, the police recovered a jar from a building next to Uthra’s house. Though the building belonged to the family, they had been only using it for storing wood. The police believe that this was the jar in which the cobra was transported by Sooraj.

Motive unclear

Uthra’s parents have alleged that Sooraj believed if he separated from Uthra, he would have to give back the gold and other things the family had given him. Some reports speculated that Sooraj wanted to get married again.

The police say that the re-marriage angle is not yet confirmed, and that for now, they merely know that the murder was for financial gains. “We are still investigating the case. Currently, we don’t have any evidence as to whether he was going to remarry and if this was what had prompted him to kill Uthra,” Ashok Kumar said.  

 

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