‘New’ notes from 2007 found, police probing presence of 12th person in Delhi family deaths case
The Delhi police are investigating the possibility of the presence of a 12th person in the Burari house where 11 members of a family were found dead on Sunday, even as they recovered more hand-written notes that suggest the family may have dabbled in occult practices since 2007.
Explaining why the main door may have been kept open, an investigating officer said, “We are working on two theories. Either the family believed that a superpower would enter through the gate and save them the moment they hanged (themselves), or a 12th person was present in the house at the time of the deaths.”
Police said the fresh handwritten notes they recovered from one of the rooms were written way back in 2007, when the patriarch of the family died. “The entire family was devastated by the death, but his youngest son Lalit Bhatia was the most affected,” the investigator said on condition of anonymity .
Autopsies have revealed that all 11 died of hanging. Ten of them shared five stools. The matriarch of the house, a widow, was found in a separate room. Police are also probing if they had been poisoned or drugged.
The recovered notes have still not helped the police solve the mystery about the 11 “haphazardly placed” plastic pipes protruding out of the three-storey house. The mystery over the pipes deepened when the police realised that seven of the 11 pipes were bent downwards while the rest were straight. “It could be a mere coincidence, but we are puzzled as the dead included seven females and four males,” the investigator said.
Interactions with a couple of local residents revealed that the family had casually mentioned that Lalit Bhatia would see his father in his dreams and had been “possessed” by his father’s soul. “Lalit would often speak in his dead father’s voice and tone and would claim that he could see his father,” said the investigator.
The probe so far has suggested that it was Lalit Bhatia who was writing all the notes and was leading the “ritualistic practices.”
“Our interaction with psychologists has indicated that the family could be suffering from ‘shared psychotic disorder’ in which all the members in a group do the bidding of their leader as they trust them unconditionally and believe they would be led out of the worldly problems,” said another senior police officer on condition of anonymity..
On Tuesday, a four-member team from the crime branch visited the Bhatia house and searched the place for over an hour. They began by observing the pipes from outside before searching the top two floors and the terrace of the three-storey building.
“We found over 25 small and large notebooks, registers and pages containing hand-written content. They were found in a blue bag in what looked like the study room of the two teenagers, Dhruv and Shivam,” said an officer, adding the handwriting in the newly recovered notes appeared similar to those in two the previously recovered notebooks.
“We are yet to find notes dating from 2011 to 2015. Also, we couldn’t find notes between December 2017 and March 2018 when the mention of rituals began,” said the officer.
Dhruv and Shivam, both 15, were sons of Lalit Bhatia and his brother Bhavnesh.
Though police said they were yet to go through all the contents of the new notes, the analysed content did not name any oculist or godman. “The contents were mainly about the father of Lalit Bhatia. We suspect Lalit wrote these notes and guided the other family members in the ritualistic activities,” said another officer probing the case.
Apart from questioning some neighbours and two relatives of the Bhatia family, the police also spoke to the owner of a restaurant and its 17-year-old delivery boy, who had delivered 20 ‘butter rotis’ to the family at 10.40 pm on Saturday. “We want to be sure the food they had was not laced with sedatives or poison. The viscera report we are awaiting will be able to clarify this,” said the investigator.
The delivery boy who had been employed at a nearby restaurant just a fortnight earlier said his entry was limited to the staircase of the house for barely two-three minutes. On being shown the photos of the family, the boy identified Priyanka Bhatia as the one who received the food and the person who paid the money as her uncle Bhavnesh.
“Two boys were also standing on the stairs. They behaved normally and I couldn’t say if they were tense or in a hurry. I was surprised why they did not order any curry or dal, but I did not ask,” the delivery boy said, refusing to be identified.