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3 minors murdered in Bhandara: Improper storage led to bodies' decay

A delay of 17 hours to conduct the autopsy on three minor girls, found dead in a village well on February 16, by doctors at Bhandara General Hospital not only resulted in the bodies turning highly decomposed, but also disintegration of vital clues to ascertain the time and cause of death.

These facts came to light, when a team of forensic experts were approached by the local police for a second opinion. MiD DAY has been tracking the developments in the case religiously, since first reporting it on Feb 28 (‘Will truth be buried under botched forensic investigation?’). 

Police sources revealed that apart from seeking the estimation of forensic scientists from Government Medical College, Nagpur, they had also shown evidences gathered, including the photographs and videos of post-mortem to professor and head of the department forensic medicine, KEM hospital,
Dr Harish Pathak.  

Photographs don’t show any external signs of decomposition in the bodies when they were brought to Bhandara General Hospital around 8 pm on February 16. Instead of preserving the bodies in the cold storage of the mortuary, acting civil surgeon of the hospital Rushi Chahande, who is a radiologist by profession, suggested that the corpses be kept in the open and that even if they showed signs of rotting, this would help ascertain the exact time of death, said a police source. 

The bodies remained in the hospital till around 1 pm the next day, when the team of doctors none of them forensic experts took them for post-mortem. By this time all three corpses were showing signs of advanced decomposition. “The autopsy video plainly shows how a female doctor from the team was trying to forcibly insert her fingers to confirm hymen tear, without realising that such a test is never done on corpses.

When bodies are in advanced stages of decomposition, they become fragile, with tissues becoming very soft. And any pressure on such tissue would easily give in and all the tears thereupon could mislead doctors,” explained a forensic surgeon, who previewed the video.

When MiD DAY contacted Pathak, he confirmed these findings, but refused to make any further comment. Meanwhile, Chahande has blamed cops and, especially local superintendent of police Aarti Singh, for providing the inquest panchnama very late, which led to the hold-up in autopsy. He added that the police did not ask to preserve the bodies in cold storage so he did not deem it important.

“The government resolution clearly states that autopsies should be treated like any other emergency and must be done at the earliest to ensure that vital evidences are not lost,” Dr Rajesh Dere, additional professor and in-charge of Sion post-mortem centre said. Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar, Maharashtra in-charge, National Commission for Women expressed complete dissatisfaction in the manner in which the case is being probed.

“Since the case is highly sensitive, the need of the hour is to have a state-level committee of forensic experts to ascertain the cause of death. Doctors who did the autopsy were not forensic experts and were not trained to handle such a sensitive case. Also, the commission has condemned the use of finger-test method in ascertaining any sexual assault.” 

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