Indian politician Shashi Tharoor's wife was murdered: 5 things about the case

Former-junior minister for external affairs and Congress Party's Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor (right) with his wife Sunanda Pushkar arrive at parliament for the opening of the budget session in New Delhi on March 12, 2012. -- PHOTO: AFP
Former-junior minister for external affairs and Congress Party's Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor (right) with his wife Sunanda Pushkar arrive at parliament for the opening of the budget session in New Delhi on March 12, 2012. -- PHOTO: AFP

After a lengthy investigation, Indian police have determined that the wife of prominent Indian politician Shashi Tharoor was murdered.

The death of Ms Sunanda Pushkar, 52, in January last year, two days after she alleged on Twitter that her husband was having an affair with a Pakistani journalist, led to rife speculation.

Foul play was suspected, but it was classified as an unnatural death until now.

Delhi Police Commissioner Bhim Sain Bassi told reporters on Tuesday that new medical reports had led investigators to register a case of murder "against unknown persons".

"The report given to the Delhi Police by the medical board says that her death was unnatural and it was because of poisoning," he said. "The poison could have been administered orally or could also have injected."

Here are five things about the sensational case:


1. The bicker on Twitter

Two days before she was found dead in a hotel room in New Delhi, Ms Pushkar accused Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar of stalking her husband and said her husband was having an affair.

Passionate tweets to Ms Tarar were posted from Mr Tharoor's official account, including: "I love you... And I go while in love with you, irrevocably, irreversibly...". But Mr Tharoor, 58, claimed that his account had been hacked.

In a bizarre twist, his wife then told Indian newspapers that she was the one who sent the love tweets to Ms Tarar, to expose the journalist. "That woman pursued and pursued him. Men are stupid anyway. For all you know, she is a Pakistani agent," she told The Indian Express newspaper.

A day before her death, the couple released a joint statement on Facebook saying they were "happily married".

After Ms Pushkar's death, Ms Tarar said: "She had a Twitter fight with me, and then she died. I didn't even get a chance to call her up, and clear the air. She seemed larger than life, always smiling, and the manner in which she died would haunt me for a long, long time."

2. 72-hour fight

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Early in the investigation, Indian police said they believe the couple fought for 72 hours before Ms Pushkar's death.

The former federal minister and his wife had a fierce argument which started during a domestic flight from his seat of Thiruvananthapuram, in Kerala, to Delhi. It was the same day the Twitter fight started. It was so intense it drew the attention of fellow passengers.

Piecing together details of what happened in the aircraft and at the hotel in New Delhi, the police came to the conclusion that the Tharoors fought non-stop for about 72 hours. At the airport, Ms Pushkar was seen rushing to the washroom in tears. Parts of the argument were apparently captured on closed-circuit television footage outside the airport washroom.

3. Sudden death

Ms Pushkar's body was discovered by Mr Tharoor when he returned to their luxury hotel suite at the Leela Palace hotel after a Congress party meeting on Jan 17 last year. The couple had checked into the hotel after they landed in New Delhi because of renovation works at their home. Staff at the luxury hotel last saw Ms Pushkar at 3.30pm when she ordered lunch.

4. Initial investigations

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Last year, doctors said Ms Pushkar's death was "unnatural and sudden". She had been taking medication for various illnesses and early autopsy results suggested she may have overdosed on anti-depressants and sleeping pills.

Ms Pushkar's son from a previous marriage, Mr Shiv Menon, rejected claims that his mother could have taken her own life, or that Mr Tharoor had harmed her.

"Anyone who knew my mother would simply know that she was too strong to commit suicide. I also do not believe that Shashi was capable of physically harming her, let alone the speculation that he could have taken her life. They were very much in love, despite occasional differences, which they always overcame."

5. Cracks in fairy-tale romance

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It was the third marriage for both Ms Pushkar, a Dubai-based entrepreneur, and Mr Tharoor, but their wedding in 2010 was called a fairy-tale affair. Friends all said they were very much in love.

Rumours of a rift in the marriage began in 2013 when Mr Tharoor started showing up at social engagements on his own.


Source: Agence-France Presse

chuimin@sph.com.sg