Sooraj Kumar Indian man gets double life sentence for killing wife with cobra snake after plotting to get out of unhappy marriage without having to return dowry received.
Sooraj Kumar, 28, of Kollam, was handed the sentence Wednesday for killing his wife, Uthra, 25, in May 2020 in what prosecutors dubbed the ‘rarest of rare’ cases, the BBC reported.
Prosecutors said Kumar, a bank employee, was unhappy in his marriage and feared that divorcing Uthra would force him to return a large dowry, including a new car and roughly $20,000 in cash.
Kumar, who was convicted of murder Monday after pleading not guilty, first decided last March to set loose a highly venomous Russell’s viper in Uthra’s bedroom, where she was bitten by the snake and spent nearly two months in a hospital, authorities said.
As she recovered afterward at her parents’ house, prosecutors said Kumar carried out his twisted plot now using a cobra that he obtained from a snake handler and tossed the reptile animal at his sleeping wife, prosecutors said.
Wife’s parents become suspicious of son in law
Kumar went so far as to stay in the room after his wife was bitten and continued about his morning routine when alerted by Uthra’s mother the following day, prosecutors said.
‘The mode of execution and the diabolic plan of the accused to murder Uthra, his wife who was bedridden, makes it [the case] fall into the category of rarest of rare,’ a prosecutor who sought the death penalty said.
Kumar claimed that the snake had crept in through an open window of the air-conditioned room. Doubting this story, Uthra’s parents called for a police investigation, which revealed that Kumar had withdrawn gold ornaments from his and his wife’s joint bank account a week prior to her death. According to Uthra’s parents, the couple had a difficult relationship, and Kumar regularly harassed his wife over her jewellery and her wedding dowry. Kumar hails from a middle class background while Uthra belonged to a wealthy family.
Uthra’s parents became suspicious of their son-in-law after he tried to take control of her property after she died.
Kumar was sentenced after being found guilty of murder in the state of Kerala, NBC News reported. Prosecutors accused him of marrying his wife for financial gain and conspiring to kill her upon becoming dissatisfied in their marriage.
‘If he divorces her, he will have to part with all her wealth,’ assistant superintendent of Kerala police Hariram Shankar told NBC News. ‘If he kills her through an explicit murder weapon, the wealth would also have to be returned. So he wanted to get rid of her through something that would resemble an accident.’
But the woman’s death was clearly a ‘well-planned murder,’ Shankar said.
Murder via snake trend in India
The snake handler, identified only as Suresh, was also arrested for supplying the snakes to Kumar, the Indian Express reported.
Fatal snakebites in India are not uncommon, according to a World Health Organization data, there were 1.2 million such deaths from 2000 through 2019.
The country’s Supreme Court, meanwhile, has suggested murder by snake may be part of a growing trend in India, where another man, Krishna Kumar, was one of three defendants accused of murdering a woman from Rajasthan in June 2019 by leaving a poisonous snake in a bag near her bed.
India’s Supreme Court denied bail to Kumar on Oct. 6 in the slaying of Subodh Devi, NBC News reported.
Devi was killed after she found out her daughter-in-law, Alpana, was having an affair, court documents show. When confronted by Devi, Alpana and her partner allegedly went to a snake charmer with Kumar and bought a poisonous snake that bit Devi, killing her.