Delhi police baffled by mass suicide of family of 11 after ordering last meal
The death of 11 members of the same Indian family, who were found blindfolded and hanging from an iron ceiling grate in a Delhi house, continues to puzzle detectives and fascinate the public, as more details have emerged.
Police are working on several theories over the case labelled the "Delhi house of horrors" by the Indian media; the main one being that the family took part in a ritualistic suicide pact.
Yesterday, Delhi police said the family had ordered 20 rotis, or chapatis, delivered at their doorstep before hanging themselves on Saturday night.
The delivery boy, named as Rishi during interviews with several TV news channels, was the last person to see the family alive.
"They had placed an order for 20 rotis at 10.30pm, I went to deliver it at 10.45pm. The daughter took the order and asked her father to pay me. Everything was normal,'' he said.
The next morning, 10 members of the Bhatia family, including two teenage brothers and a sister engaged to be married, were found hanging in the hallway.
The 11th member, Narayani Devi (75), was found dead on the floor, also from hanging.
A CCTV recording of the family bringing in stools and wire on the night they died has since been recovered.
Eleven pipes have also been found protruding from the house, with no connection to any plumbing or electrical appliances, which has left police baffled.
Police said they were investigating the theory that the family was confident that they would survive the ceremony. They said notebooks described a week of prayers followed by a ceremonial hanging, and had even planned to repeat the ritual with a relative who was facing problems.
Detectives believe, from handwritten notes found at the home, that the hangings were part of a suicide ceremony that would "cleanse" them and that the pipes were there to allow their souls to escape.
Neighbours and relatives of the family have questioned their involvement in any occult practices, and some believe the case was a mass murder cloaked as a group suicide.
They point to the fact one of the young women who died was due to get married soon and that preparations had been made for breakfast the following morning as evidence to counter the suicide theory.
Other unusual findings included all 11 of their mobile phones on silent mode and found in a drawer, and that the family pet dog was found with a high fever and chained up.
Neighbours said the animal was usually left to roam around the house and garden at night.
Police are also exploring the theory of shared psychosis or mass hysteria, whereby the family all followed the rantings of one of the men, Lalit Bhatia.
Police say notes retrieved from the scene written by Bhatia showed he had a delusional, narcissistic personality. (© Daily Telegraph, London)