Is it a murder case or not? Cops are now scratching their heads over this question after the mysterious appearance of human skulls and bones in a dirty SoBo bylane.
On Saturday, two civic employees were cleaning a bylane in Chor Bazaar when they spotted the human bones amid the garbage
The bone of contention is the condition the skulls were found in — one of them had markings that are often used by medical students in their studies. The skulls also seemed to have been cut and polished by machine — further indication that the bones were dumped there by medical students.
On Saturday, two civic employees were cleaning out a bylane behind a residential building on Mutton Street (also known as Chor Bazaar) when they were shocked to spot human bones amid the garbage. In all, 28 bones, including two skulls, were found from the spot.
The JJ Marg police have registered a case of accidental death under Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Code and, prima facie, they suspect that some medical student might have dumped them.
Senior Police Inspector Anil Madvi from JJ Marg police station said “It is confirmed that the remains are human remains. We have sent the bones and skull to JJ post-mortem centre and our future course of action will depend on the DNA analysis report.”
Explaining why they suspect medical students had something to do with the case, PSI Jyotsana Thackeray said, “As per the preliminary discussion with forensic surgeons at JJ post-mortem centre, they found markings on the skull vault that are usually done by medical students.”
The police’s theory is unlikely, according to Dr Pravin Shingare, who is currently the director of medical education and research for Maharashtra, and the former head of the Anatomy department at Grant Medical College. He thinks the skulls with the markings may just be a red herring to throw the cops off the scent of a possible crime.
“It is unheard of for any medical student to dispose off biomedical waste in the open, as they are briefed about the scientific disposal of biomedical waste in the initial classes itself,” said Dr Shingare, adding that medical colleges were facing a shortage of skeletons to study (See ‘Down to bare bones’)
He further said, “It cannot be ruled out that somebody is misleading the cops by placing the marked skulls so that the police conclude it was done by a medical student. The forensic surgeon should probe the case thoroughly and analyse each and every bone to ascertain if they belong to the same persons.”
However, he agreed that if the bones had been dumped by medical students, they are likely to be from a nearby institute like Grant Medical College. “If police investigation reveals the involvement of any medical student then stringent action can be taken against such a student for open dumping of bio medical waste. Also we will issue circulars to all the medical colleges in the state, asking them to refrain from such an act,” added Shingare.
A forensic surgeon attached to Grant Medical College’s department of forensic medicine and toxicology, said, “Markings were visible on three bones out of the 28 bones, which include the cranial vault (top part of the skull), scapula (shoulder blade) and pelvis (hip bones) – a practice usually followed by medical students studying anatomy. No such markings were found on any other remains.”
The surgeon further added, “The markings on the three bones were done in blue and red markers. While red indicates arteries, blue is the colour for veins. Interestingly, only one skull vault has been found, and the other skull vault is missing. The manner in which the skull vault has been opened does not indicate any blunt trauma, it has been neatly cut and seemed to have been polished. Such cuts are made only by machine, which is usually done in the anatomy department of a medical college.”
However, the forensic expert said they were yet to come to any conclusion, and the sample would be sent to the Anatomy department to determine sex, age and other anatomical aspects, after which the remains will be sent to the forensic lab in Kalina for DNA analysis to determine whether the bones belong to the same persons or not.
Students under scanner
DCP (Zone 1) Manoj Kumar Sharma said, “We are probing the case from all possible angles and will also start questioning medical students from Grant Medical College and other medical institutes in and around the area.”
Down to bare bones
>> Human skeletons cost anywhere between Rs 5,000 and Rs 20,000, depending upon the polish
>> Only 2,000 skeletons are made available for academic purposes each year even though there are 52,000 MBBS students who graduate each year
>> The average life of a human bone for academic purposes is 10 years, after which it is discarded