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Bhandara triple murder: Forensic experts find serious flaws in autopsy findings

Two of the three forensic experts approached by Bhandara police have found material discrepancies in the manner and findings of the post-mortem. The third scientist is still studying the evidences and is yet to submit his inference.

In its March 5 edition, MiD DAY had reported (‘Cops attempt dummy test’) how police intended to approach Dr SD Nanandkar (professor and head of department, forensic medicine and toxicology, Grant Medical College), Dr Harish Pathak (professor and head of forensic department, KEM medical college), and Dr TD Dogra (retired professor and director, forensic medicine and toxicology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi) to help appraise the manner in which the autopsies were performed by a panel with no forensic scientists at Bhandara General Hospital.

The police wanted the team of experts to shed some light on the time and cause of death of the three sisters, who were found in a village well on February 16. Accordingly, Dr Pathak and Dr Dogra have tendered their conclusions to senior police officers probing the case, and both have rejected the possibility of any sexual assault on the victims and have even pointed out several other flaws in the post-mortem.

Point-by-point
For instance, the panel of doctors that conducted the autopsy had mentioned that the girls probably died 24 to 36 hours before their bodies were first photographed. However, the forensic experts observed that rate of decomposition in fresh water is very slow, and hence they have ascertained that the victims were dead about 48 to 52 hours at the time.

Secondly, Bhandara doctors had suggested that the girls were killed elsewhere and then tossed into the well, but could not pinpoint the cause of death. So, viscera samples were sent to FSL, Nagpur, tests on which came out negative.

The forensic experts have found that the death was because of ‘asphyxia due to anti-mortem fresh water drowning’ (in other words the girls were alive when they fell into the well). To substantiate their claims, the scientists have linked their findings to the diatom test, Karnal, Chandigarh, which had come out positive.

Also, the panel that had done the post-mortem had stated in its report that all three girls were sexually assaulted and two of them were sodomised. The forensic experts have quashed this claim and have ruled out any sexual assault or rape of the victims.

They explained that because of the bodies being in advanced stages of decomposition at the time of the autopsy, the tissues had become soft and fragile, there was autolysis and formation of gases in the abdomen and chest cavity, which try to find an escape route if the corpses are not handled cautiously. Even an attempt of digit intervention (finger-testing) into vagina or anal area may result in rupture, which can be misconstrued as anti-mortem injury caused by sexual assault.

Bag ladies?
Serious lapses are also explicit in the video recording of the autopsy two female doctors can be spotted with sling bags dangling from their shoulders, showing their lackadaisical approach towards the entire procedure. One of them, who did the finger tests on the victims, had removed the gloves soon afterwards despite partaking in the remaining process.

The worst part is that the cutters, who were not trained or sensitive enough, were asked to open up the bodies the entire time. The only challenge left for the forensic experts now is to assist the police in ascertaining if this was a case of drowning, and if so was it accidental, suicidal or homicidal.

To reach a conclusion, the scientists will have to once again visit the scene of the crime, which will happen shortly. Both Dr TD Dogra and Dr Harish Pathak confirmed submitting their reports to the police, but refused to make any revelation, citing confidentiality.

Rule nothing out
Though special inspector general of police (Nagpur Range) Rajendra Singh admitted receiving the experts’ inferences, he said, “The investigation is being done from all angles and it would be too premature to make any statement at this stage.” However, a senior IPS officer, on condition of anonymity, said, “We have received reports from two of the three forensic experts.

We will wait for the findings of department of forensic medicine and toxicology, Grant Medical College, and only then would we be in a position to comment.” Meanwhile, MiD DAY has learnt that Dr Nanandkar is on leave and his subordinate has started examining the evidences. Attempts made to contact civil surgeon Dr Rushi Chahande at Bhandara General Hospital did not yield results.

Wrong again!
Meanwhile, police had another major breakthrough in the case, after the soil test report from Forensic Science Laboratory, Kalina returned positive. In order to fix the crime scene, cops had sent soil samples from a chappal presumably of one of the girls, found near the well from in and around the farm area where the girls were believed to have been sitting before their death, earth found stuck to their clothes, etc to the FSL. The report negates the deduction of the Bhandara doctors that the girls were murdered somewhere else and later their bodies chucked into the well.

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