Bhandara deaths: Cops drain well to look for evidence

Following Saturday’s dummy test that proved a total washout (‘Cops attempt dummy test’, March 5, MiD DAY), Bhandara cops yesterday decided to dig deeper. Police drained the well in which the bodies of three minor girls were found on February 16 in the hope of finding used condoms, or at least empty packets of the contraceptive, but to no avail. The operation was aimed at examining the sexual assault angle, which the police have been consistently following, despite forensic findings not upholding it.

The post-mortem room at Bhandara General Hospital. Earlier, it was revealed that the bodies of the girls were kept in the open for more than 17 hours at the hospital before an autopsy was conducted

“We hoped to get some clue after flushing out the water. But though our men entered into the muck and searched conscientiously, we found no clues. We have detained three more people, residing in and around Lakhani Village, on suspicion and they are being interrogated,” said Special Inspector General of police (Nagpur Range) Rajendra Singh.

Second opinion
When asked if they are still probing the sexual assault angle, he replied in the affirmative and said, “At present, we have no option but to follow the findings of the first post-mortem. But once we have the second opinion in writing, we would decide accordingly what the focus of the investigation should be.”

Meanwhile, Dr PD Dixit, professor and head of department, Government Medical College, Nagpur, said, “We are still awaiting the findings of FSL, Nagpur and other evidences that the police have collected, to form an opinion. But till now cops have not submitted anything before us.”

When MiD DAY asked
Dr Dixit, if he and his team had gone through the video footage of the autopsy conducted at Bhandara General Hospital, he assented, but said he was not sure about the sexual assault theory.

Rs 6 lakh wasted?
Inquires by MiD DAY have revealed that Bhandara General Hospital, where the bodies of the girls were kept in the open for more than 17 hours before an autopsy was conducted (‘Improper storage led to bodies’ decay’, March 4, MiD DAY), had spent nearly Rs 6 lakh for procuring a steel cabinet to preserve corpses. However, so far the trays have been used only four to five times.

Baiju Kuldeep (57), who has been in his unique profession since 1978 and is employed with the institute, has cut over 15,000 bodies. “The three bodies did not show any external decomposition when brought here in the evening of February 16. But as the police did not submit the inquest panchnama, the corpses were kept on the post-mortem table, and even the panel of five doctors was present.

The eldest girl’s body was kept on one table and the other two together on another table. Around 11.30 pm, I was informed by the civil surgeon that the post-mortem would be done the next morning. Since neither the police nor the civil surgeon asked me to keep the bodies in the trays for cooling, I did not. Cops in large numbers were guarding the post-mortem room from outside.”

According Baiju, when he came to the post-mortem room the next morning, the bodies were in advanced stages of decomposition. “A little after 12.55 pm when the inquest panchnama was prepared, I was asked by the gynaecologist to cut open the bodies, and I followed the instructions,” he said.

Amateur hour!
When asked how he could ascertain that the bodies were showing signs of decomposition, Baiju said, “As I was about to cut open a body, the skin started peeling off. I was told by the gynaecologist, to insert my finger and confirm if there was a hymen tear. I refused, arguing that since she was the doctor, she should be doing it. The doctor herself then did the finger test.”

“Had the police and civil surgeon granted permission to preserve the bodies in the mortuary cabinet, I could have kept them there and prevented the decay. I have cut many bodies in my career, but have never come across such a case,” he told MiD DAY.

When asked why he did not order for the bodies to be preserved instead of waiting for police the panchnama, acting civil surgeon Dr Rushi Chahande said, “I did the best I could while following procedures. I am not a medico-legal expert, but a radiologist.”  

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