Indian man sentenced to life in prison for killing his wife with cobra

A man convicted of murdering his wife by having a cobra bite her in her sleep received rare punishment from the Kerala court.

An Indian man who used a cobra and a viper to murder his wife received a rare double life sentence in what prosecutors have called the “rarest of the rare” cases.

Sooraj Kumar, 28, released a highly venomous Russell’s viper snake on his wife Uthra that left her in hospital for nearly two months, prosecutors in the southern state of Kerala said.

While she was recovering at her parents’ home, he obtained a cobra from a snake handler and threw it at his sleeping wife. Her venomous bite killed the 25-year-old woman in May 2020.

Kumar was arrested at his home last year after Uthra’s parents raised suspicions, claiming their daughter was being harassed for more dowry. The woman’s parents said Kumar tried to take control of their property after death.

On Monday, a court in the Kollam district of Kerala found Kumar guilty of murdering and poisoning his wife, and of making an earlier attempt to kill her using a Russell’s viper.

Judge M Manoj sentenced the convict to two consecutive life sentences on Wednesday, but did not accept the demand of the capital punishment prosecution considering his age and opportunity to reform, local media reported.

‘Diabolical plan’

Sooraj has pleaded not guilty, but police said his phone records showed that he was in contact with snake handlers and that he had seen videos of snakes on the internet prior to the murder in March last year in Kollam.

Sooraj stayed in the room with Uthra after she was bitten by the cobra and continued with her morning routine the next day when she was alerted by the woman’s mother, prosecutors said.

“The manner of execution and the defendant’s diabolical plan to assassinate Uthra, his bedridden wife, makes him a [the case] they fall into the category of the rarest of the rare, ”said the prosecutor, who had requested the death penalty.

Snake handler Vava Suresh said Sooraj may have “inflicted pain on the reptile to cause it to bite,” as quoted by the Hindustan Times newspaper.

Uthra came from a wealthy family, but her husband, a bank worker, was not well. Their marriage involved a large dowry that included a new car and Rs 500,000 (about $ 6,640).

According to media reports, Kumar’s family was charged with conspiracy after some of Uthra’s gold was found buried near her home days after the murder.

India’s Supreme Court recently warned of a trend in snakebite killings as it denied bail to a woman and her “lover” accused of using a cobra to kill her mother-in-law in the northern state of Rajasthan in 2019.

The biggest challenge in the Kerala case was proving that the snakebite was homicidal, prosecutor G Mohanraj said, adding that the court was presented with evidence showing the difference between natural and induced bite marks.

Two defendants were acquitted by courts in similar cases in recent years after prosecutions failed to prove poisonous snakes were used as a “murder weapon,” The Hindu newspaper reported.

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