Indian man gets double life sentence for murdering spouse with cobra

An Indian man, Sooraj Kumar, who used a cobra and a viper to kill his wife has been handed a double life sentence, the prosecutors have called this the “rarest of rare” cases.

The 28- year old set loose a highly poisonous Russell’s viper snake on his partner Uthra that got her to the hospital for almost two months, prosecutors in the southern Kerala state mentioned.

As she recovered at her parents’ house, he picked up a cobra from a snake handler and threw it at her while she was asleep. Its venomous bite killed the 25-year-old woman in May 2020.

Kumar was arrested from his home last year after Uthra’s parents raised suspicions, claiming that their daughter was being abused for more dowry. The deceased woman’s parents also said that Kumar tried to take control of her property after the death.

On Monday, a court in Kerala’s Kollam district held Kumar guilty of murder and poisoning his wife, and of making another attempt previously to murder her using a Russell’s viper.

Judge M Manoj sentenced the convict on Wednesday to two consecutive life sentences, but did not agree to the prosecution demand for capital punishment considering his age and scope to reform, as per local media reports.

Kumar had pleaded not guilty but the police found his phone records which displayed he was in contact with snake handlers and had watched snake videos on the internet before the murder.

Kumar stayed in the room with Uthra after the life threatening cobra bit her and then went about his morning routine the very next day when told by the woman’s mother, 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,” said the public prosecutor, who had asked for the death penalty.

Snake handler Vava Suresh also said it was very much possible that Kumar had “inflicted pain on the reptile to provoke it to bite”, the Hindustan Times newspaper quoted him as saying.

Uthra was from an affluent family but her spouse, being a bank worker, was not well off. Their marriage consisted of a big dowry including a brand new car and 500,000 rupees (about $6,640).

Kumar’s family was charged with conspiracy after some of Uthra’s gold was found buried around his home days after the murder, according to media reports.

India’s Supreme Court has recently alerted about a trend of snakebite murders as it denied bail to a woman and her “lover” accused of using a cobra to kill her mother-in-law in the northern state of Rajasthan in 2019.

The biggest challenge in the Kerala case was to prove that the snakebite was homicidal, prosecutor G Mohanraj said, including that the court was presented with a test that showed the difference between natural and induced bite marks.

Two defendants were looked for by courts in similar cases in recent years after prosecutions had failed to prove that venomous snakes were used as a “murder weapon”, The Hindu newspaper reported.

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