It seems like a suicide but could it be a murder? Was it an occult practice that led to the deaths? 

Delhi Police on Sunday said they were probing multiple theories to figure what led to the deaths of the 11 members of a family in Burari. Investigators so far have recovered handwritten notes from inside the house that hints towards a ‘suicide pact’ related to occult practice.

Police have registered a murder case because one of the seven women, Narayan Devi, 77, was found dead on the floor of a room with ‘ligature’ marks around her neck, prompting investigators to suspect that she was strangled. The other ten family members were found hanging. Police have found at least six stools, which may have been used to climb before the family hanged themselves from the iron grille.

Police suspect the other family members ‘strangled’ Narayan either because she may have backed out of the alleged suicide pact or her weight made them change her plan. A cloth was found around her neck but her limbs were not tied.

Here are the possible theories that the police are probing:

1. Religious ritual gone wrong

One theory the police is looking at is that the family members may have died during the course of a ‘religious ritual that went wrong’. Of the many notes found in two notebooks, one details the steps to be taken to obtain ‘moksh (salvation)’ and the way to meet God. The note also points out that the rituals would not lead to death and God would come to the rescue of the family in their last moments, said a police officer familiar with the probe.

2. Suicide pact

“After reading some of the notes, we suspect that the family members had been planning a suicide pact for the past some days. The notes were written in Hindi and by one person. We are trying to identify the author. It is important to ascertain the source through which the author learnt about the steps to salvation,” said the officer.

3. Role of a ‘tantrik’/ cult leader

As the notes have allegedly pointed towards observance of some definite spiritual/mystical practices by the family, police are suspecting the role of a ‘tantrik’ or cult leader, who they believe misguided the family members in the name of spirituality and salvation. Investigators said they are analysing mobile call records of the family members and speaking to their relatives, neighbours and friends to know if any of them was in touch with an occultist.

4. Role of ‘outsiders’

Though no valuables were found to be missing from the house, police have not ruled out the possibility of foul play and probing the role of ‘outsiders’.

Investigators are examining the footage of a CCTV camera installed in the lane outside the victim family’s home to find out if any suspicious person(s) had visited the house in the intervening night of Saturday and Sunday. The main door of the house was open when a neighbour went to check on the family and found them dead.

5. Property grabbing or personal enmity

The two surviving members of the family have alleged that their kin were murdered and that it was not a suicide pact. The possibility of murder for ‘property grabbing’ or personal enmity is also being looked into by the police. “ The door was open. It is surprising they did not close the door if they were taking their lives inside. We are looking at the case from all angles,” an investigating officer said.

Joy Tirkey, deputy commissioner of police (crime), said, “The autopsy repots of the deceased are awaited. The reports will confirm the cause of deaths.”

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