Congress leader Shashi Tharoor's wife Sunanda Pushkar, found dead at a Delhi hotel nearly a year ago, was poisoned to death, Delhi Police said Tuesday, triggering demands for his resignation from the Lok Sabha.
Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi did not rule out questioning Tharoor, now a Congress MP and a former Union minister, in the case that has grabbed headlines in the media.
Sunanda's body was found in her five-star hotel room in New Delhi on January 17 last year, two days after she alleged on Twitter that Shashi Tharoor was in an affair with a Pakistani journalist.
Pushkar, married to Tharoor since 2010, had been taking medication for various illnesses and early autopsy results suggested she may have overdosed on anti-depressants and sleeping pills.
But speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Bassi said new medical reports had led investigators to register a case of murder "against unknown persons".
"The report given to the Delhi Police by the medical board says that her death was unnatural and it was because of poisoning."
"The poison could have been administered orally or could also have injected, so keeping all these factors in mind, the case has been registered."
In remarks carried by several media outlets, Shashi Tharoor was quoted Tuesday as saying he was "stunned" to hear his wife's death was being treated as murder.
"All I want is that a comprehensive investigation be conducted and that the unvarnished truth should come out," said the 58-year-old.
What had happened on Jan 17 night
News of Sunanda's death emerged late in the evening on Jan 17, coming within two days of her Twitter spat with Mehr Tarar over an alleged affair with the minister.
According to police officials, Sunanda was found dead in the bedroom of The Leela Palace suite number 345 around 8.15pm. Her body was found on the bed, with no signs of struggle.
Police officials said Tharoor came back from a Congress meeting around 8.15pm and discovered his wife's death. He informed the police.
Tarar reacted to news of Pushkar’s death in two consecutive tweets: “What the hell. Sunanda. Oh my God” and “I just woke up and read this. I’m absolutely shocked. This is too awful for words. So tragic I don’t know what to say. Rest in peace, Sunanda.”
Pushkar had left Tharoor’s official residence, 97 Lodhi Estate, on January 16 and later tweeted: “...got so many issues diagnosed in KIMS that now who knows when I got 2 go with joy Hastay hua jayegay (sic).”
This was followed by a post declaring that the couple was “happily married”.
“Mr Tharoor and his wife, who has been ill, had rented the suite on January 16 afternoon and had spent the night there,” said Abhinav Kumar, an IPS officer of Uttarakhand cadre and Tharoor’s private secretary.
“He was at the AICC (All India Congress Committee) meeting during the day and returned only around 8.15 pm to find her lying in bed, dead.”
According to Kumar, he made a call to the Sarojini Nagar police station house officer (SHO) after receiving word from Tharoor, who, in the meantime, informed the hotel staff. The hotel’s resident physician confirmed she was dead.
Pushkar’s death follows a hail of tweets in an ugly spat she had with Tarar over the last 72-hours.
Police on Jan 17 night questioned a number of hotel staff and checked the CCTV footage of the lobby of the third floor of the luxury hotel where she was staying.
A team of Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) reached the hotel around 10:30pm and collected samples for the investigation.
The mortal remains of Sunanda Pushkar were consigned to flames in New Delhi on January 18 evening.
The cremation took place around 5.30pm at the Lodhi crematorium in south Delhi, near the couple's residence in Lodhi Estate.