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A Forensic Perspective

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Story of a hardship and crime investigation by a doctor

Mystery / Adventure
Age Rating:

Chapter 1



.. Dr K B Suryakumar.

The first job I got as a government doctor was in a small village.This was near the state highway but the hospital was a little away from the road, deep inside, sorrounded by forest with plenty of trees, hills all around. It was a small village, beautiful in many ways. As there was no doctors available anywhere around , people started coming to the hospital when they came to know that a doctor is appointed and there were some days when I treated more than hundred and fifty patients in a day also.

The summer used to be very hot in that village, but monsoon was also severe. There used to be heavy showers and gushing winds which was of high intensity. Going out at that time was difficult and a nightmare experience to all. But there was always the chirping sound of the birds singing around, the tymble organ of the cicada making the buzzing sound trying to attract the female from miles away as the evening sets in , the bull frog craoking calling for it mate was awesome. Then there was the majestic Kalyaala waterfalls which could be seen very clearly from the hospital, in front on the hill. During the heavy showers, plenty of water used to cascade down from it, the thundering sound of the waterfall could be heard in the night for many miles. It was very pleasant in the night. Actually spending the day amongst the greenery of the village was quite refreshing.

We had some villages attached to the health centre where our health care workers had to go for health checkup purposes. There the health workers had to give the people advice regarding maternal and child care, about hygiene to the pregnant woman. Under child care we had to go to these places for immunisation and for motivating people to come for the family planning operations.

One of the such village is called Kadamakal, which is famous for its rubber plantations. During the summer there was a motorable road to that place. The distance to that village from my hospital as the crow flies or when we pass through the forest was about 10 km. But there was no asphalted road anywhere. Madikeri ,which is the head quarter of the district was 30 km from my place. From Madikeri there was a rough jeep road to Kadamakal ,which passes through a reserve forest and vehicles were not allowed there.

Everyday morning one postal man used to walk the sixteen kilometres from there to Madikeri through the forest, having a bag on his shoulder, a long pole with tinklets attached to it in his hand. He used to start early morning from there, come all the way to the head quarter and collect the post from the post office and go back by evening to the estate.That was his routine, daily, except on Sundays and general holidays.

It was in this place that the story what I am going to tell you happened. One day morning when the workers went for rubber taping, they found one of their co workers dead by the side of some trees. Because he was suffering from high blood pressure they thought he must have died due to a heart attack. Whatever the case maybe, cause of death certificate had to be obtained as he was a permanent estate labourer, had life insurance, etc. Information had to be sent to the Madikeri Rural police station as the estate comes under it's jurisdiction. So a letter was sent to the police through the postal man. When such incidences of death, foul play or accident happen in any estates, the police have to go to the place and enquire whether that is a simple one or other ways. In the monsoon walking in the forest road that too with biting leaches was not possible at all for the police. So the police came down in their jeep to my hospital, and asked me to accompany them to the spot for a medical opinion. And if it is an unnatural death, then to conduct a post mortem examination. The group D employee who usually does the postmortem examination in our hospital was on leave that day. There was another ward boy who volunteered to do the post mortem examination all by himself. So we started from Sampaje and via Sullia reached a place called Kollamogaru.

This is where the ordeals started for all of us.The distance between the estate and this place was six kilometres. There were four streams on the way . During summer they used to be dry and any vehicle could cross over easily. But as it was monsoon, all the streams were flowing full and had flooded the sorrounding areas with water flowing over the roads . As a contraception to cross the streams in those days the local people had made in temporary arrangement of keeping two bamboos, tied together. It was hung with ropes from some trees on the banks. The little streams of the summer looked like a swollen river at that time. Holding a small rope, praying to the almighty that we will not slip down into the flowing water we slowly crossed the temporary bridges. In between the streams, there were paddy fields with no roads, where we had to walk on the bund in between the fields. It was very slippery as you can imagine what it is, in a monsoon day, with our foot wears, shoes getting sunken in the slushy mud. Going with umbrella in one hand with records and other things in other hand , doing all acrobatic gymnastics was a terrible task for all of us.

I was born and brought up in a village. Hence I was used to walking long distance. But even for me at that young age it was a big ordeal. The whole body was drenched in the rain with the wind blowing from all the directions. Actually we had started from the hospital early in the morning. When we reached that estate it was already three in the afternoon.

Immediately after reaching there we went straight to the place where the body was found. Everywhere I could see tall rubber trees surrounded by forest. The inside of the estate was in a sloppy terrain. When we reached all the other estate workers started coming and told us that he was suffering from blood pressure and he has suffered a heart attack. Police started doing enquiry called mahazar there and recording all the statements. Actually for the doctor to do any examination or postmortem the police have to finish all their formalities and give a requisition in forms called 146 (a) and ( b)

But in this case due to lack of time and as we had to return before it was dark, I thought of doing the examination straight away. I started recording the condition of the clothes, whether there was any injury on the apparels or otherwise. I noted everything in my note and then I thought we will do the examination proper. I gave the knife to the ward boy who had come with me.

Till that time the boy was talking continuously in the jeep with everybody. But the moment the knife came in his hand he started trembling totally and started crying telling that he can't do it, as he has not done any such examination before .

Now my position became critical. I was new to the job and during my college days I might have seen only a few postmortems. But when he said that he is not doing it, next alternate was to shift the body to the nearest hospital. Again it was not at all possible to carry the body over a stretcher, crossing all the streams, over make shift bridge and over the paddy fields.

Then there was no other option for me but to do it myself. I folded my pant and shirt and got ready to do it all by myself. Then I asked the people around us to get me one bench to keep the body . But no one was willing to give anything , even a wooden plank. So I made the body lie down on the wet ground itself. I removed the clothes first, started doing the medical examination. He was of moderate height and obese in structure. Age according to my examination was around fifty years and there were no external injuries.

Then I started cutting the body as per the methods we follow. But the knife what I was having looked like belonging to some prehistoric age.

It was not cutting anything because it was very blunt. There is a local saying in our villages that the knife is not sharp enough even to cut the nose of a dead person. (I don't know why they had to cut the nose of dead person, in any case!). I searched for some other sharp weapons in my box, but in vain. I enquired the people around and got only a negative feedback.

When I was not getting any other sharp instrument I cursed my fate thinking it was my bad luck, that was all. When there was no other methods I continued doing it with the same knife some how. Without knowing the proper procedure I tried my best to do it .

After opening the chest and abdomen, when I started to open the stomach, I found a liquid which was smelling of alcohol along with a pungent, kerosene like smell of an insecticide resembling Metacid. This is a deadly insecticide used in plantation to destroy the ravaging insects. By that time I knew the cause of death was due to poisoning itself but had to send the vicsera for chemical examination for confirmation. After putting common salt as a preservative in different bottles, got all the vicsera packed and sealed. Now the cutting part was over. But I had to stitch it back to normal as far as possible. The needle that was in the autopsy box was again rusted and blunt. So I had to struggle again to stitch with that available needle which made me sweat even in that drenching rains.

By that time it was already five o'clock in the evening and whatever lunch the manager of the estate had arranged had become icy cold and we had to start our return journey. Feeling the pain all over the body, holding the umbrella we started our trekking back along the same route we treaded in the morning. By this time, the rain was pounding, the water in the steams had increased, almost touching the rickety Bamboo hand made bridges.

We crossed all the streams with our heart in our mouth, walked on the bund of the paddy fields and crossing the so-called bridges we reached Kollamogaru where the police jeep was waiting to take us back. It was around ten in the night when I reached my quarters. By the time I had my bath, dinner and slept, it was quite late. Whole night the body was aching and I couldn't sleep well at all.

Some how it became dawn. Having breakfast hurriedly I went to the hospital. There were a few people whom I had seen the previous day in that estate. The moment they saw me, they rushed in to touch my feet.

Admonishing them mildly I asked them to come inside and sit.

They refused to sit and started telling me a narrative of the events that took place in the previous few days. What they told was this.

The deceased person was a chronic, heavy alcoholic. He always used to come home in an inebriate state, fight with his wife suspecting her fidelity.That night also he had quarreled with her and had gone out from the house in the midnight. In the night he did not return and the wife didn't bother much as such events had happened before also.

Next day when other workers went for work they saw him lying dead. First they thought that as he had high blood pressure he might have died due to heart attack , due to his extra tension in the night. But when they saw a bottle of poison next to him they knew what exactly had happened. Here they used their criminal brains. Suppose a person dies when he is working in a company or estate, he will get all the benefits from the company, insurance and the benifits of the Government welfare department. The children and the wife will get the compassionate work in the same estate. But, suppose he had committed suicide, nothing will be available to them. So they planned and threw the bottle of poison far away in the forest.Then sent words to the police that it is a heart attack. They also thought whatever it is, there was quite a heavy rain that day. There is plenty of water flowing in the river and nobody may come there. Even if somebody comes it is the new doctor. He may not know anything. In those days usually many doctors used to stand far away and watch the ward boys doing the autopsy and note down whatever they told.

That was what these people thought and expected that nothing may come out. But when I landed there all their plan turned topsy turvy.

After hearing what they said I was totally confused. Yes. The person who was there is no more. What about the people and his family who are living.? Should I try to be more humanitarian and hide the real fact.? It was in my hands. I could easily say that the case is a myocardial infarction as the body has been burnt in the night and there is no other evidences except the vicsera, which I could just throw.

But as a doctor, I didn't have to brood over the reason for which he died and I had to know only about the cause of death. I was not there to dwell and give certificate regarding the character of his wife. I don't have any right to comment on anything about his drinking habits. I was in a confused state what to do, how should I go about, and proceed.

Then suddenly I remembered what my professor used to tell in my medical college classess. He used to tell us that in any suspicious cases doctors are not witnesses to the crime. We are not the investigation officers, nor judges to sit on judgement. In any suspect case don't allow your emotions to rule over your mind. What you see, what you notice , just write it down. You have an obligation to your profession more than the society.

When I joined the professional service I was always thinking that I should do 'that right thing' without bothering about any other things.

As a new clarity dawned in my head, I just took the pen and started writing my report.

I clearly wrote that the cause of death was due to poisoning.

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