Uthra murder case: Kerala man receives double life sentence for killing his wife with a cobra

The Kollam Extra Sessions Court on Wednesday imposed a double life sentence on Sooraj S Kumar (28) for the murder of his wife Uthra (25) by use a cobra to bite her in his sleep.

In a case described by the court as “rare of the few”, the convict was sentenced to life imprisonment on the charges of Articles 302 (murder) and 307 (attempted murder) as well as 10 years rigorous imprisonment under section 328 (causing harm by using poison) and seven years imprisonment under section 201 (causing disappearance of evidence) of the IPC as well as a fine of Rs five lakhs.

The court of first instance stopped to impose the death penalty on the convict given his young age and lack of criminal history, stressing that there are opportunities for him to reform. However, the court made it clear that the convict would face prison terms of 10 years and 7 consecutive years before starting his double life sentence.

Kollam Rural investigating officer and former SP S Harishankar told reporters he was happy with the verdict. “The quantum of the sentence is decided by judicial discretion and has many factors to keep in mind. The court already has found the accused guilty on the four charges retained by the investigators and the prosecution. Our efforts stop there. We cannot comment on the amount of the penalty, ”he said.

At the same time, the victim’s mother, Manimeghalai, who has been following the proceedings from her home in Anchal in Kollam district, said she was not satisfied with the verdict as she expected that the court impose the death penalty on the convicted person. She added that the family would appeal the verdict.

Context of the case

The case dates back to May 7, 2020, when Uthra, a one-year-old mother with differing abilities, was found dead from a snake bite at her home in Anchal. The cobra, which bit her and later found her in the same room, allegedly inflicted the bite overnight as Uthra, her husband Sooraj and their child slept.

Although it was initially dismissed as a snakebite by local police, the fact that Utthra was bitten by a viper earlier on March 2, 2020 at her in-laws’ home, which forced her to be hospitalized, and a criminal complaint in her death by her parents forced senior police officials to launch a detailed investigation.

After a thorough investigation by Kollam Rural SP Harishanker, officers concluded that Sooraj, an employee of a private financial institution, had thoroughly plotted the murder of his wife Uthra by forcing a snake to bite her.

Police claimed Sooraj bought both the viper and the cobra from a snake handler with the intention of killing his wife and passing her off as a natural snakebite. Although the attempt to bite the viper in March 2020 failed because she was hospitalized on time, he managed to repeat the devious act with the cobra two months later. She was on treatment for more than 50 days in a hospital after the first snakebite.

According to the police version, the couple had a strained relationship and Uthra’s parents claimed that she was regularly harassed by the in-laws because of the dowry. The Kollam Crime Branch, which led the investigation, had filed a 1,000-page indictment in the case, detailing how Sooraj committed the murder, using scientific and circumstantial evidence.