His report had shown presence of pesticide, methyl alcohol and ethyl alcohol — a deadly combination — in actor’s viscera samples
The sensational findings of pesticide in the viscera of Malayalam actor Kalabhavan Mani, and the leak of the report to the media has proved costly to MK Nair, joint chemical examiner to the Kerala government. Senior Kerala home department officials recently summoned him and slapped a gag order on him, restricting media interactions on high profile and sensitive cases.
Malayalam actor Kalabhavan Mani was admitted to Amrita Hospital, Kochi, on March 5 after he started vomiting blood. He passed away the next day
Nair’s report had shown the presence of chlorpyrifos — a pesticide — as well as methyl and ethyl alcohol in the viscera samples of Mani. Subsequently, the Chalakuddy police, who until then had suspected a natural death due to liver cirrhosis, had to begin looking into a homicide/suicide angle. The forensic surgeon at Government Medical College, Thrissur, where the autopsy had been conducted, had claimed that Mani had died of liver cirrhosis.
Meanwhile, Prof Dr Prasanna Kumar, professor and head of the department of forensic medicine and toxicology, Government Medical College, Thrissur, issued a letter to the joint chemical analyser, asking him to return the leftover viscera samples. He said the hospital authorities wanted to seek a second opinion on the samples. "The action has upset some office bearers at the laboratory, who say that such a thing had never happened before. Up until now, the findings of the laboratory have always been accepted. Accordingly, the police would carry out their probe and the findings would even be established in court during trials," said a senior scientist.
Speaking to mid-day from Ernakulam, Nair confirmed receiving the gag order. He said, "We have a state-of-the-art laboratory, which underwent a major revamp in the last five years at a cost of Rs 6 crore. Our laboratory has the best imported instruments/ machines needed for advanced testing. Nearly 120 samples of viscera from four districts of Kerala — Palakkad, Thrissur, Ernakulam and Idukki — are sent here monthly on an average. And, our reports have helped the police get maximum convictions in the 25 years since the laboratory started its operations at Kakkanad, Ernakulam."
Officials on the edge
Unconfirmed reports in local media in Kerala have left government officials anxious about the manner in which the investigation is progressing. An official said, "The local media has stated that a high quantity of pesticide was found in Mani’s body as he ate a cucumber sprayed with pesticide along with his drinks. Even if we believe this to be true, how did methyl and ethyl alcohol enter the body? This poisoning was first detected by the toxicology department of Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, where Mani was admitted."
Dr Prasanna Kumar refused to comment on the issue, saying, "These are confidential matters. I cannot discuss the case. You can speak to the investigating police officers."
Meanwhile, there was unconfirmed information that the viscera samples were sent to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CSFL), Hyderabad, for a second opinion. But Sudhakaran Kartha KP, director in-charge, CSFL, Hyderabad, refuted the report. "We have not received any viscera sample for testing from the Kerala police," he said.
Inspector General of Police (Thrissur range) Ajit Kumar clarified that the samples have not been given to any CSFL outside Kerala for a second opinion for now. "It is a medico-legal case and we are seeking the advice of medico-legal experts before we decide on seeking another opinion on the viscera reports given by the office of the joint chemical examiner, Kakkanad," he said. He hinted that the samples could be sent to any CSFL in the country, if the need arises. "Our investigation is underway and we are yet to conclude if it was a case of homicide/suicide."
RLV Ramakrishnan, Mani’s younger brother told mid-day from Thiruvananthapuram, "We are reading all sort of reports in the local media and television, but all I can say is that there is no truth in whatever is being written or shown. The fact remains that the police are probing the case at this moment. They (police) have already detained a few people in this connection and we are hopeful that the manner in which the chemical analysis report detected the presence of a pesticide, those involved in my brother’s killing will be similarly exposed soon."