Why Sunanda murder case investigators have a herculean task ahead of them

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There has been a complete turn in the investigations into the death of Sunanda Pushkar, wife of former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor. The police investigating the case as a murder are also trying to ascertain the use of several substances such as Polonium 210, Thallium, snake venom among others which could have possibly caused her death.

Padma Bhushan award winner Professor P Chandrasekaran who led the forensics team in cracking the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case tells OneIndia that it is extremely difficult to probe a case in the absence of the dead body. The dead body in forensics investigation is relied upon since it has the tell tale story of the incident.

Sunanda case: Tough task for officials

Investigating Polonium 210

Polonium 210 is a by-product of a nuclear reactor and it is extremely difficult to source. The investigators say that the presence of Polonium and its analysis needs to be done abroad.

It is possible to analyse the presence of this substance in India as we do have a facility in Trombay which can help. If there is presence of Polonium, experts normally tend to miss it. It is not the most commonly searched poison in the viscera, he said.

Dead body is the tell tale

The dead body is the tell tale when it comes to determining whether it is a murder or suicide. The dead body is a major source in any investigation of this nature. "Even in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, we relied heavily on the dead body of the human bomber.," he said.

Professor added that when the dead body is not available it is very difficult to probe a case if there is the presence of Polonium 210. This would mean that the investigators will have to depend heavily on secondary evidence such as source of Polonium, witnesses among other things.

Secondary evidence will play a major role in the probe in the absence of a dead body. However this will not be an investigation.

Why cremate when death is shrouded in mystery?

To determine Polonium correctly the presence of the body is vital. The body will need to be exhumed. However if the body is cremated then there is nothing that can be done about it.

In case of deaths which are suspicious in nature, the general principle is that the body should be preserved. The law can override traditions in such cases and investigators can either preserve the body or tell the family to burry instead of cremating the body.

It is through the human body that one can find a lot of information. The external appearance, nails, eyes and also the skin all tell a story of the incident. Now in the absence of the dead body the viscera has to be analysed in the lab and there are instruments to analyse the same.

When the investigating agency puts up before the court the evidence based on the analysis of the viscera he will have an additional job to do. He needs to first prove before the court that the viscera is that of the deceased as this is often questioned by the defence lawyers.

Suspicious injury number 10

This injury is that of a needle prick suggesting that something was injected into the body of the deceased. "From what I have gathered is that the deceased sustained the injury while being injected in the finger," he said.

It is strange that whoever has allegedly injected her has done so on the finger. I find this very unusual. Normally a person is injected in the arm. Whether the deceased was injected in the finger to avoid suspicion is something that the investigation will tell.

Clinical symptoms of Polonium 210

First and foremost the doctor needs to explain how he came to the conclusion that Polonium may have been used. There are no clinical symptoms to detect the presence of Polonium so easily.

An instrument is needed to measure the radio activity in the body. If it is gama particles then it can be externally measured. However in the case of alpha particles being emitted it is extremely difficult to measure since it is internal.

In such cases one will need the extract from the viscera and measure, which is very difficult. The investigators have a herculean task ahead of them.

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