Scientific and circumstantial evidence proved vital in the Uthra snakebite case

Sooraj was found guilty of murdering 25-year-old Uthara using a king cobra in May 2020.
Uthra and Sooraj
Uthra and Sooraj
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It was all about the evidence — scientific and circumstantial — in the case that eventually helped the police and the prosecution build a strong case against 28-year-old Sooraj. With all evidence stacked against him, a court in Kerala on Monday, October 11 found Sooraj guilty of murdering his 25-year-old wife, Uthra, using a king cobra in her house in Kollam district’s Anchal on May 7, 2020.

The investigating team collected evidence and brought onboard experts from various fields, including snake catchers, to prove that Uthra died of a planned snakebite. This is one of the shining examples of how scientifically and professionally a murder case was investigated, Kerala Director General of Police Anil Kant said, as he spoke to reporters on Monday after the court pronounced its verdict in the case.

“It was a difficult case. But the investigation team put in the effort to analyse the forensic medicine, cyber data, animal DNA and other evidence. This was one of the rare cases where an accused has been found guilty based on the circumstantial evidence,” he said, praising the investigating team, which was led by then Rural Superintendent of Police S Harishankar.

In the month of August 2021, the investigation team had held a dummy experiment using cobra snakes to determine the nature of their bites, and why this case was possibly different. Citing this, the DGP said that the team could bring relevant evidence to the court.

“Usually, 150 centimetre-long cobras can create a wound of 1.7 cm depth, but in the Uthra snakebite case, the wounds were 2.3 cm and 2.8 cm deep. The police later found that when external pressure is given on the head of the snake, the wound depth can be increased. The investigation team also found how Sooraj scoured YouTube on the behaviour of viper and cobra. That was another piece of evidence,” he said.

Using a cobra was part of Sooraj’s extensive plan to kill Uthra. Prior to murdering her using a cobra in May 2020, he had used a viper a few months prior to killing her. She was bitten by the viper in Sooraj’s house, but she had recovered. Suspecting foul play, Uthra’s parents filed a police complaint, which, eventually, unravelled the macabre murder.

Former Rural SP S Harishankar, who led the investigation team, emphasised the crucial role of evidence in building a strong case against Sooraj, which helped the court. “We were able to produce enough evidence to convince the court that there were no other circumstances other than a murder,” he told the reporters as Sooraj was being escorted out of the Additional Sessions Court in Kollam.

“Every piece of evidence was crucial and valuable — it was a chain of circumstantial evidence. When there is a link in all evidence and there is no loophole, that is when it leads to a conviction. So, every link was important,” he elucidated.

“From our perspective, this was a ‘rarest of the rare’ occurrence. Prosecutor Mohanraj also presented it well. As police, we believe, Sooraj will get capital punishment,” he said.

SP Harishankar also highlighted the role of other experts in building the case, including Sasikala, the head of the forensic department at the medical college; officials from the Forest Department; veterinary doctors and snake handlers. “Since it was a subject not familiar to us, these experts took a lot of effort to explain the details to us.”

Meanwhile, Uthra’s family is hoping that their daughter’s killer will get maximum punishment, when the court pronounces the punishment on Wednesday, October 13.

Uthra’s brother Vishnu said, “We are happy with the judgment so far. The investigating team and the prosecution were able to gather all evidence and present it well in the court, which understood the case. We are indebted to them.”

Speaking to reporters at the court premises, Uthra’s father said, “He cheated and killed my daughter. He will get the maximum punishment… he should get. If not, we will continue to fight.”

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