Mystery shrouds Mumbai paanwala's death by poisoned kheer

The plot behind the death of 26-year-old Arun Shetty has thickened, with investigating police officials trying to locate an unidentified woman known only by her first name Smita. Early on Thursday morning, Shetty, a paanwalla in Sion, succumbed to bouts of vomiting, between which he alleged that a certain Smita, a “short woman”, had fed him poisoned kheer.

Also read: Did consuming poisoned kheer kill Mumbai paanwala?

Shetty ran a paan shop next to Sundar Vihar hotel at Sion
Shetty ran a paan shop next to Sundar Vihar hotel at Sion

The Wadala TT police, which had originally not recorded Shetty’s allegation, is set to take a U-turn following a change in investigating officers. In fact, the police now state that the case would make no progress until they locate this unknown woman. Shetty’s phone records are being checked for a possible lead to Smita. However, the police, who await reports from the postmortem department of Hinduja Hospital and Kalina’s Forensic Laboratory, haven’t ruled out a possible case of suicide.

The victim Arun Shetty
The victim Arun Shetty

Suicide or murder?
On Friday, the previous investigating officer in the case, PSI Anita Menkar had stated that this could be a possible case of suicide. Menkar had received information that Shetty had been under pressure due to several loans and his sister’s marriage, which could potentially point to suicide. Sources close to the victim confirmed to SUNDAY mid-day that Shetty, who was brought to the city by his paternal aunt, corroborated this information. “He would often talk about the money requested by his aunt. His family visited him only for an hour at Sion Hospital where Shetty was seeking treatment and left,” said a friend close to Shetty.

Another friend, Rajkumar Dubey, who rushed Shetty to the hospital after he was poisoned, confirmed that Shetty had allegedly gone to his village in the month of December to fix the marriage of his younger sister, scheduled for May 1. However, he added that his friend had never mentioned any pressure that would make him take an extreme step such as suicide. “He was mentally strong. He told me about this girl Smita who gave him kheer, after which he started experiencing stomach cramps and vomiting. I want the culprits found and brought to justice,” he said.

The case gets more complicated with the police trying to ascertain whether this was a case of accidental or intentional poisoning. “We need the forensic reports to know what kind of poison killed him. Since Shetty’s close friends were the ones who admitted him and are providing clues in the case, there is little chance that it could be a case of foul play by them,” said PI Appasaheb Koli, the new investigating officer in the case. The Sion hospital’s forensic team is also slated to visit the spot once the police ascertain the exact scene of crime, given the complicated nature of the case.

A senior forensic expert from the hospital said that while there were no injuries found on Shetty’s body, they are waiting for confirmations from Kalina Forensic Lab and Hinduja.

Shetty is survived by his mother and sister, who stay in Mangalore. He was cremated last evening in the presence of family members and friends.

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