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Perwez death murder or suicide?

Family members suspect foul play in the death of Perwez Shahabuddin, a professor at New York?s Columbia University, writes S Rajagopalan.

india Updated: Nov 24, 2005 18:39 IST

Did Perwez Shahabuddin, a well-regarded professor at New York’s Columbia University and son of former MP Syed Shahabuddin, commit suicide? Or was he done to death at Day’s Inn motel, where his body was found on Thursday evening?

Family members suspect foul play and point to his swollen face and bruised nose. But the police say circumstances suggest it is probably a case of suicide. They, however, say that investigations are continuing and a definitive conclusion is still to be reached.

An IIT-Delhi alumnus, the 43-year-old professor at Columbia’s Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (IEOR) went missing on Wednesday night. He last called his wife, Soofia, that evening.

“It appears that he’s been planning this (suicide) for a long time. There was stuff on his computer that would indicate that,” said a report in the Journal News, quoting Clarkstown Detective Lt Charles Delo.

A book called Final Exit that purportedly teaches people how to commit suicide was also recovered from his motel room. Lt Delo has been quoted as saying that he would look at the evidence, talk to family members on why they think it’s foul play and also to Perwez’s colleagues “to see what his mental state was”.

Speaking to the Hindustan Times on Sunday, Lt Michael Sullivan, also of the Clarkstown police department, said: “It was probably suicide, but investigations are continuing. We need to talk to more people and examine medical records.”

Lt Delo was not immediately available for comment.

Perwez’s cousin, Syed Faisal, told this paper before leaving for Delhi with the body and members of the bereaved family: “We have conveyed our strong suspicions of foul play.”

After Perwez went missing, Faisal and friends traversed the Palisades Interstate Parkway that the professor took to the university. On Thursday evening, the police located Perwez’s car at the Day’s Inn parking lot and subsequently found his body in a room.

Columbia University, announcing the death, paid tribute to Perwez for his dedicated service. “Professor Shahabuddin was an accomplished researcher, a dedicated teacher and served as the director of the PhD programme at IEOR. He will be sorely missed by the entire Columbia community”

Perwez, who has been with the Columbia faculty since 1995, was honoured last year with the Great Teacher Award, presented by the Society of Columbia Graduates “for his ability to make knowledge accessible and exciting to students”.

First Published: Nov 21, 2005 01:53 IST