La Martiniere Student’s Death Case: Mystery or Cover Up?

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Prayers for the young boy Rahul Sridhar are on, while hope for justice seems far away as many questions surrounding the mysterious death of the Class IX student of Lucknow’s La Maritiniere College remain unanswered, reports VARUN BIDHURI

Rahul Sridhar, a Class IX student of La Martiniere College in Lucknow, was found unconscious in a pool of blood during school hours on 10 April 2015. The 14-year-old later succumbed to his injuries. The death was presented as suicide by the school authorities and the police even as medical reports and medical analysis of post-mortem tell a different story. Soon after the incident, the injured boy, fighting for his breath, was rushed to the civil hospital of King George Medical University (KGMU) at 11:40 am.

At 12:15 pm doctors declared him dead. On 10 April, his body was taken to the KGMU’s mortuary for post-mortem at 3:45pm. The post-mortem (PM) started at 5:15 pm and ended by 5:55 pm. After the 45 minutes of post-mortem, the body was given to the family of the deceased. When his body was taken for the post-mortem he was wearing Khaki shirt and trousers, navy blue tie with stripes and underwear. However, his cadaver was later handed over to the family in a white shroud which is the very first question that remains unanswered till now.

A couple of hours later, the school administration had drafted a self-explanatory ‘press note’ with regard to the incident stating that “it is a simple case of suicide and nothing more than that.” TEHELKA possesses the press release issued by the school after Rahul’s death. It mentions no reasons for the suicide. Apparently, the same day Rahul had been promoted from class 8 to 9th, and it was the first day of the academic session 2015-16.

TEHELKA, in order to probe further, reached the parents of the deceased — father V.Sridharan and mother Annamma Sridharan. Both are working at Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGI), Lucknow. V Sridharan is a technical officer and Annamma Sridhar is assistant nursing superintendent.

TEHELKA came to know that as per the injury certificate issued by the treating doctors there were no major injuries to right lower limb, except an abrasion with the contusion of 6×3 cm on the front and inner aspect of right lower leg.

On postmortem examination, the doctors found the following injuries:
1. Lacerated wound of 6 x 5 cm on the back of the head, with fracture of the underlying occipital bone.
2. Lacerated wound of 5 x 4 cm on the right side of the forehead, with fracture of the underlying bone.
3. Contused abrasion of 6 x 5 cm over the left cheek bone.
4. Laceration of 5 x 4cm, on the front of left leg, 8cm below the knee, associated with the fracture of the bones of the leg.
5. Laceration of 3 x 2cm, on the front of right leg, 9cm below the knee.

Director, Medico-legal Division of Truthlabs, Hyderabad Dr. M. Narayana Reddy, M.D. (Forensic Medicine) while giving analysis of the post-mortem report said, “The nature of the above injuries is not serious enough to suggest that they were caused due to fall on the hard surface of the ground from that height as alleged by the school authorities and the police. The injury No.1 was on the back of the head, whereas the injuries 2 and 3 were on the face. If it were a case fall from the height, the injuries must be on one side of the head only, and not on both the front and back of the head.”

“There were no injuries to the upper limbs and the trunk. If it were a case of leaping onto the hard surface from a height of about 60 feet, there should more serious injuries to both the lower limbs. Injuries number 4 and 5 can be used in a single transaction that is by hitting with an object like a stick or metal rod. The injury 4 was on the front of left leg 8 cm below the knee joint and the injury number 5 was also on the front right leg 9 cm below the knee joint. From the above-stated facts, one can come to the reasonable conclusion that it was not a case of death due to fall from height. It appears to be a case of murder, until unless proved to be the contrary, by an unbiased investigating agency.”

According to the school management, Rahul had missed the morning assembly, he presumably climbed onto a chair from which he leaped to the ground. Some blood was found at the spot where he struck the ground. Deceased also made his way to one of the upper floors in the monument Constantia and set fire to some papers that he was carrying.

Countering the school’s statement, Dr Reddy mentioned in his report that if the deceased jumped on his own from a height straight onto the ground without coming into contact with any intermediary obstructions, he was expected to land on his feet, and then to fall forward , due to the force of forward motion of the body. As a result, he was expected to sustain severe abrasions, contusions and lacerations on the front aspect of the body parts. No such injuries were observed by the doctors or the inquest witnesses.

The marked area of the crime scene depicting the site from where the boy was found with injuries was a hard floor, covered with tiles. If the deceased had fallen at that site from a height of about 60 feet, he was expected to sustain multiple contusions, abrasions and lacerations on the front part of his body. The injuries on the face were not consistent with that type of fall indicated. No injuries were found on the upper limbs and trunk of the body.

Post mortem report analysis mentions that when the victim falls passively from near the wall or projects themselves outwards at the top, as in accidental fall, the body may fall whilst maintaining the same orientation to the ground, but usually, turns and twists in an unpredictable manner. In accidental falls the amount of alteration of postures depends on upon the height of the fall and the time available for turning. But in suicidal fall by jumping from a height of about 60 feet the body is expected to maintain the same orientations to reach the ground, and hence the feet were expected to touch the ground first, and then the body falls on its front side.

Parents of the deceased while talking to TEHELKA said, “Our son, Rahul, was everything to us, he was very cute, active, may not be a genius but a very intelligent child. But destiny, at its worst, separated us from him just as he moved to class 9 in the cruellest manner.” “He was murdered inside the School (La Martiniere Boys, Lucknow),” they allege.

V Sridharan says, “I got a call from the Principal at 12.28 pm on 10th April 2015, his very first day of Class IX. I was numb with unimaginable shock as he got admitted in the Hospital SGPGI. Curiously my son was all alone at home as the school was closed for 10 days session holidays prior to the incident. He could have attempted suicide at home but he did not. Why only at the school, that too on the very first day of Class IX? It was a pre-planned crime.”

“I firmly believe that it’s a cold blooded murder committed by a senior student or students but the notorious and highly influential school authorities with the help of incompetent police decided that my son’s death should be depicted as suicide from the very first day itself,” he added.

“So the Principal declared that my son S.Rahul committed suicide due to one-sided love affair in a press meet within 3 to 4 hours of the incident. The Principal’s story appears like an eye witness’ account as though he has seen my son falling from the top and accordingly the police started the investigation. The authorities decided the fate of the case before any inquiry started which shows the prejudiced mindset of the police authorities hence it’s understood that there was no proper investigation done but just a formality to hush up the incident. The police say there is no proof or witness for murder but there is no proof or witness for Suicide either.”

Annamma Sridhar, the deceased boy’s mother, says, “Throughout the available conversations on SMS or Facebook there was absolutely no trace of Love affair. The investigating officer has concluded that Rahul somehow loved Arushi and this is a case of unrequited love. But, in fact, they referred to each other as Bhaiya and Behen. The Principal says that my son was absent from the assembly in the morning but his classmates told the Police that he was present there. How can an educated and responsible person lie? It sounds ridiculous.”

The boy’s parents further allege, “The mobile used by our son Rahul was recovered after 24 hours of the incident with all data deleted. Who will investigate the school employee who burned a bed-sheet soaked with my son’s blood on the instruction of the school authorities? It was telecast on many TV channels on the same day of the incident but there was no blood found on the brick floor where my son fell. Is it not a prima facie case of evidence destruction?”

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Lying evidence: Top, the anatomical details of the victim, and the alleged suicide note found from his pocket

“Both the police and the school authorities were so desperate and frustrated to prove it as suicide that they did not bother to check my son’s name properly, they even failed to take very basic ‘panchanama’ with only three legal signatures. The so-called 7-word suicide note has absolutely nothing to do with my son’s death. It is a botched up story by the police or the school to protect the name of the high-profile school or just to protect some VIPs,” says mother Annamma Shridhar.

TEHELKA contacted SHO Surendra Kumar Katiyar, Gauthapalli Police Station, Lucknow, who is looking after the case and investigation. He says, “We have sent our investigation report to the court. As per our investigation, we haven’t found anything hard which can say that it was murder not suicide.”

Tehelka also made several calls and left messages to the Principal, Carlyl McFarland, of the La Martiniere College, Lucknow, but there was no response.

Sridharan claims, “Suppose I am committing suicide, I would write – “I am committing suicide” and not “V.Sridharan is committing suicide. Moreover, in the ‘note’ the timing is written as 10.30 pm but the incident happened in the morning. The exact note which was reportedly discovered by the Principal from my son’s uniform pocket read, “Rahul Sridhar suicide by jumping off a building At 10.30 pm”, which suggests that the note was written on some earlier occasion, under the dishonest inducements of the perpetrators of the crime, which was kept preserved by them for ulterior motives, and was used as evidence for showing it to be a suicide case, after murdering the deceased. Postmortem report from the Government Medical College or the medical evidence in the case does not corroborate the story of the deceased jumping from a height of about 60 feet onto a bricked floor. Thus, the local police had totally failed to show its bonafide in the matter given the current situation prevailing with delay tactics, lies, unprofessional, biassed and botched up the investigation.”

“We don’t think that we would live to see the culprits who murdered my son go to jail. We feel completely let down by the school and the police with their irresponsible motives. We are asking nothing more than what is legally due to our son. We need justice for our innocent son and we will make every possible effort to achieve it.” Rahul Sridhar’s parents have moved different national commissions, Ministers, petitions before High court and governors for a fair investigation into the case.

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