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Sunanda Pushkar probe moves towards anti-depressant overdose theory

Monday, 20 January 2014 - 9:03am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA

After doctors in AIIMS declared Sunanda’s Pushkar’s death ‘sudden and unnatural’ on Saturday afternoon, the Delhi Police is now veering towards the conclusion that the death was caused by an overdose of anti-depressants.

AIIMS doctors who had earlier sent samples of the viscera — internal organs such as heart, liver and intestines — for toxicological and pathological analysis to check whether Sunanda was poisoned or not, are also moving towards the overdose theory.

The police have seized used strips of Alprax, an anti-depressant, from suite no 345, which enforces the anti-depressant overdose theory. Alprax is a drug taken by patients suffering from anxiety, sleep disorder and depression. It is likely that the presence of minor injuries on her body has nothing to do with the actual cause of death and there is no indication of any violence at any time.

“The full report is yet to come out as we are investigating the case. The possibility of the overdose of medicine can’t be denied. We can reach a conclusion once we have the full report of the post-mortem,” said Dr Adarsh Kumar, one of three doctors who performed the post-mortem on Saturday.

According to Dr Vinod Kumar of Guru Tegh Bahadur hospital in East Delhi, anti-depression medicines are lethal if taken in extremely high doses. “We don’t know what other medicines she was taking, but anti-depression medicine can be fatal if consumed in high quantity,” he said.

Sunanda was reportedly suffering from stomach TB, called Lupus, and was taking some medicines too along with Alprax. Deaths by TB are high because diagnosis is difficult, and now TB viruses are drug-resistant. Some reports suggested that Sunanda was aware of the looming death and had used the word ‘terminal’ while referring to her health during conversations with Tharoor’s close relative, painter Anjalie Ela Menon.

Sunanda was found dead in room number 345 of Leela Palace Hotel in Delhi on Friday. She had come to Hotel Leela on Wednesday in a distraught state, and that was the last she was seen by any outsider. It is possible that Shashi Tharoor met her in the room, though he was staying in an adjacent suite. That they were in separate suites also pointed to the ruffled nature of their relationship during Sunanda’s last days.

To end all the speculation surrounding the death of his wife, Shashi Tharoor has written to the home minister to conclude all investigations at the earliest. “In the midst of my mourning, I have finally had a chance to catch up with the media reports and am horrified to read the reckless speculation rampant there. I am appealing to you to issue instructions to the relevant authorities to expedite their investigation and come to a rapid conclusion so that the truth emerges at the earliest,” the minister of state for HRD wrote in his letter.

Tharoor also recorded his statement before the Vasant Vihar sub-divisional magistrate Aloke Sharmaunder under section 164 CrPC. Tharoor reached Alok Sharma’s office in Kapashera area, on the Delhi border with Haryana, around 5.30pm and stayed at the office for 50 minutes.

The magistrate also recorded the statement of TV journalist Nalini Singh, who was the last person Sunanda called from her mobile, according to phone records.

The speculation around what looks like a clear case of overdose of anti-depressants, probably along with large doses of alcohol, started after the post-mortem team concluded it was “sudden unnatural death”, opening up all sorts of possibilities. Normally after a post-mortem, the cause of death can easily be pointed out, pending final toxicological tests.

In the rare event of the police getting interested in questioning Tharoor, it can only be if the injury marks are serious and toxicology tests are also vague. In that case, they will do so only after questioning Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar who seems to have been the cause of all this turmoil and death. According to Tarar, she has met Tharoor twice and they were just plain friends (see accompanying story).

In the unlikely event of the investigation reaching the stage where Tharoor is questioned by the Delhi Police, he may have to consider resigning from his post. Such questioning can happen only if the police is probing the abetment to suicide angle. If there is evidence of a scuffle in the hotel room of Sunanda, this angle will have to be probed, according to experts. This is also because the marriage is not yet seven years old, the cut-off period for police to probe dowry harassment charges.

Investigators said that they will summon those people with whom she spoke over phone and record their statements to understand her state of mind. The couple’s visit to Thiruvananthapuram, where she was hospitalised at Kerala Institute of Medical Sciences for three days before returning to Delhi on Wednesday is also under police scanner.

Meanwhile, taking the cue from Sonia Gandhi, calling on Tharoor, the junior minister had a stream of Congress bigwigs visiting him, including finance minister P Chidambaram.

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