Taunted for dark complexion, woman poisoned party food; 5 die

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Raigad (Maharashtra), June 23 (IANS) A young woman, taunted by her relatives for her dark complexion, a broken marriage and lack of cooking ability, poisoned the food served to nearly 120 people at a housewarming party five days ago leaving five dead, Maharashtra Police said on Saturday.

Four minors and a 53-year-old man succumbed when they consumed the poisoned food late on Monday and at least 19 others are in local hospitals, including five of whom are serious.

According to an official of Khalapur police station, investigations led to the arrest of one of the invited relatives, Pragnya alias Jyoti Survase, 23, who has confessed to her crime.

“She was arrested yesterday (on Friday) and produced before a court on Saturday, which has sent her to police custody for six days,” the official told IANS.

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As reported by IANS on June 19, the incident took place in Mahad, in Raigad district, where local resident Subhash Mane had organised a vaastu-shanti pooja and a housewarming dinner for nearly 120 relatives and friends.

After dinner, many people complained of stomach ache, giddiness and started vomiting incessantly in the early hours of Tuesday. At least four succumbed by daybreak. Another person died hours later.

Over 80 relatives and friends of Mane, who consumed the ‘dal’ laced with a snake-killing chemical, were rushed to local private and government clinics for treatment and most of them have been discharged.

However, police investigations over the past five days revealed that the chemical used to kill snakes was commonly used in Khalapur, which abounds with these slithering reptiles.

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Accordingly, they trained their investigation on the persons responsible for making the pooja and dinner preparations or serving food, and found that Survase had admitted herself to a hospital pretending to be ill after the party.

Finding this suspicious, police interrogated her thoroughly, after which she broke down and confessed to the gruesome crime, and was subsequently arrested, the official said. She is a close relative of the Mane family.

He added that her apparent targets were her second husband, mother-in-law and two sisters-in-law, who were habitually taunting her for her dark complexion, her earlier marriage and lack of culinary skills.

But they escaped as they had already eaten that evening, even as the poisoned ‘dal’ was consumed by many of the other victims, five of whom — Gopinath S. Nakure, 53, Kalyani Shingude, 7, Vijay Shinde, 11, Hrishikesh Shinde, 12, and Pragati Shinde, 13 — were killed, he added.

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