Did consuming poisoned kheer kill Mumbai paanwala?

Roommate of Arun Shetty, a paanwala, who lived in Pratiksha Nagar, Sion, says the 26-year-old deceased told him he felt sick after having the kheer, but police say prima facie it looks like suicide

Who is Smita? The question will probably haunt the roommates and relatives of a 26-year-old man from Sion, who died after allegedly being fed kheer laced with poison by a woman with the name. However, while the Wadala TT police, who are investigating the case, failed to record the statement of Arun Shetty, they have also intentionally omitted the mention of the woman while recording the statement of his roommate. Arun had allegedly told him about her. While the cause of Arun’s death will be ascertained only after the chemical analysis, doctors from Sion Hospital said that prima facie it is a case of food poisoning.

Arun Shetty was under pressure due to loans and his sister’s marriage, say police.
Arun Shetty was under pressure due to loans and his sister’s marriage, say police. 

Arun, who stayed at Pratiksha Nagar, Sion, is survived by his sister, who is slated to get married on May 1, and parents. He stayed with four room mates — Rajkumar Dubey, Ramesh Singh, Ramesh Pujari and a distant uncle, Purshottam Shetty, for over seven years.

The incident
Dubey, who is a taxi driver, said on Wednesday, Arun told him to go to Sunder Vihar hotel while he would follow him there, for breakfast. The other roommates had all gathered there. The hotel was their usual meeting point and Arun ran a paan shop next to it.

Sion paanwala
Shetty ran this paan shop owned by his uncle Purshottam Shetty, next to Sundar Vihar hotel at Sion. PIC/Suresh KK

“After an hour or so, I received a call from Arun who asked me to come and take him to a hospital since he wasn’t feeling well. He said he had a burning sensation in the stomach and was feeling nauseous,” said Dubey. Within 10 minutes, Dubey got another call from Arun, who sounded worse.

“When I reached home, I asked him what happened. He said a short woman called Smita gave him some kheer and since eating it, he had been vomiting, as well as had a burning sensation in his stomach. I immediately took him to a doctor nearby,” said Dubey.

The doctor checked Arun and asked Dubey to take him to Sion hospital. Dubey said that he didn’t probe Arun further about the girl as his condition was deteriorating and he was vomiting continuously. While the duo, and the roommates reached the hospital at around 1.45 pm, Arun was rushed to the emergency ward for treatment.

“The patient was vomiting and was referred to us with a history of poisoning. He was immediately treated for the same and later shifted to the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU),” said a doctor.

The hospital sent the stomach wash to P D Hinduja hospital for testing and said while the case was prima facie of food poisoning, they are awaiting the results. After his death, the viscera was sent to the toxicology department of Kalina Forensic laboratory. Based on both the reports, the forensic experts of the hospital will confirm the type of poison and cause of death.

While a notification about the case was sent to Wadala TT police station by the hospital authorities, the investigating officer, Police Inspector Anita Menkar, reached the hospital at 6.30 pm to record the statements and start the investigation.

By that time, Arun was in no condition to talk. The officials recorded the statements of Dubey who brought him to the hospital.

Talking to mid-day, Menkar said that they intentionally omitted the part of a woman giving kheer to Arun, since there was no evidence for the same.

No mention of Smita
“The incident took place when nobody was at home. Neither Dubey, nor anyone else saw Smita, and all we know about her is the first name. Nor have any of the four roommates ever heard of her through Arun. We also got information that Arun was under pressure due to several loans and his sister’s marriage. When we evaluated all the factors, the woman giving him poison through kheer sounded odd and baseless, and that’s why we didn’t include it in the statement,” said Menkar.

Policespeak
Senior Police Inspector of Wadala TT Police Station confirmed that they were still checking if the Smita story is a plot to cover foul play or a relevant piece of information.

“In case we find it incorrect, it will be considered foul play and we will call the roommates for questioning. While none of them have a criminal record at our police station, we are investigating that too,” said Suhas Sampatrao Garud.

While Arun passed away in the MICU at 12.30 am on February 4, the Wadala TT Police are yet to carry out the spot punchnama.

“I’ll go to the spot and search his home and also talk to his parents to see if he was actually under pressure. It depends on what we find but prima facie it looks like a suicide case,” added Menkar.

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