Sunanda "murder" - Police need to dump the science and get back to basics

Written by: Vicky Nanjappa
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New Delhi, Jan 7: The Special Investigating Team of the Delhi police probing the death of Sunanda Pushkar may just have to rely on the conventional way of investigation in order to crack the case.

Going through the medical reports and also speaking to a couple of officials attached to the probe, it appears unlikely that proving anything on scientific grounds may be extremely difficult or take several years.


If the investigators prove that it was murder, then one could say that it has been very smartly executed and planned over a period of time. It was not a murder in the spur of the moment, but planned over a long period of time is what the case prima facie would suggest.

Too much delay:

An official attached to the probe informed oneindia that the presence of poison will be extremely difficult to ascertain. The viscera samples are already old and poison has a tendency of diminishing. Now with the police saying that they would send the samples abroad it only adds to the delay.

The official also states that detecting poison after so much delay is no easy task and could easily take up to five to six years. In most of the cases which have been delayed poison has not been detected at all the official also claims.

Viscera report has its limitations:

In the absence of a dead body the only hope for any sort of scientific investigation would be the viscera report. Now the viscera samples have been with the investigators for almost a year now and one would want to question why this was not sent for sampling abroad immediately.

There was clearly some sort of hurry on part of the investigators after the death. The medical team had sought several questions from the Delhi police soon after her death. However the answers were evasive and at times extremely delayed.

The 12 page report of the doctors clearly states the following, " in forensic toxicology, there are so many reasons due to which poison/chemical may not be detected in viscera test like complete metabolism, excretion, decomposition, inappropriate technique used in detection and the intake of nature of poison beyond the list of common poison."

"It is possible that a person may die from effects of poison, and yet none may be found in body after death.

If the whole of the poison has disappeared from the lungs by evaporation or has been removed from the stomach and intestines by vomiting and purging, urination and other absorption has detoxified, conjugated and eliminated from the system by the kidneys and other channels."

Tampering with the viscera:

The other possibility that cannot be ruled out in a case that has been delayed is the tampering with the viscera. After the death of Sunanda, the investigators were quick to conclude there was no foul play involved in it.

The viscera samples have been preserved for almost a year now. There is every possibility of someone trying tamper with the viscera. Tampering can result in alterations and when sent for analysis could prove nothing experts would note. Even in the report it is stated that the addition of chemicals such as bleach and soap in the viscera can alter the results a great deal.

Back to basics:

Speaking to several experts and also investigators it appears as though scientific results may not yield the results that the investigators are looking for. This would mean that the investigating team will need to get back to the basics and probe the matter in a conventional manner.

This would require summoning all persons they have a doubt on. Interrogation, cross-questioning and relying on CCTV evidence would all become necessary in this investigation. What the police would also need to do is nail the culprit first, understand the motive and then come to conclusion.

Planned murder:

An investigating officer says that prima facie it appears as though it was a murder planned by experts. If at all we do find evidence that all the poison listed in the medical report were indeed present in the body, then it appears to be a job of a thorough professional.

Whoever planned and executed the murder knew fully well that using the kind of poison mentioned in the report would send investigators on a wild goose chase. They were fully aware that by the time the presence of such poison is ascertained it would start to diminish and would leave no trace.

To add to it there has also been an inordinate delay in examining the viscera sample and also adding to the headache is the possible tampering of evidence and the cremating of the body.

All these factors put together would mean that the police have no option but to reconstruct the crime scene and get back to basics.

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