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The only taste: Cyanide is acrid

A pinch of it is known to kill instantly, even before the ?victim? can gulp his last ?lung-ful?. Hence, this is a record of sorts. Guinness worthy?

india Updated: Jul 08, 2006 03:39 IST

Nobody has ever lived to tell the tale — how does potassium cyanide taste?

A pinch of it is known to kill instantly, even before the “victim” can gulp his last “lung-ful”. Hence, this is a record of sorts. Guinness worthy? Only time and forensic studies can tell.

Kochi goldsmith M.P. Prasad has bequeathed the world a startling find in his death. Potassium cyanide, says his hastily-scribbled suicide note, tastes acrid. Quite so, for death by “cyanide poisoning” cannot be anything, but “bitterly unpleasant”. The scientific community — splitting hair over the taste of this “instant killer” for long — is breathing easy. Prasad’s story is dramatic. The goldsmith — eager to kill himself — checked into a Palakkad hotel on June 17 and ordered a bottle of liquor.

Says Palakkad town police inspector K Pramod, probing the “taste case”, “Prasad mixed a pinch of the potassium cyanide powder, he carried in a plastic cover with the liquor and stirred it with the other end of the pen with which he was signing off.” But he may have accidentally put the “poisoned” tip of the pen into his mouth before completing the note.

When he realised his “folly”, he hurriedly wrote a few lines: “Doctors, potassium cyanide. I have tasted it. It burns the tongue and tastes acrid. I have read in a novel how an avid reader kills himself. Just puts cyanide specks at the bottom of the pages and flips through them with his fingers using moisture from his tongue. Now I know you can kill a person without leaving a trace of suspicion.”

“His suicide note is a document. There is no written proof about the taste of cyanide,” says P.B. Gujral, the district police surgeon, who conducted the post mortem on Prasad’s body.

The authorities have sent the viscera and blood samples to the Regional Chemical Analysis Laboratory, Ernakulam, for tests. Prasad can be credited with the “invention” only after the report arrives.

First Published: Jul 08, 2006 03:39 IST