Indian man accused of copying Saddam Hussein to kill his wife and mother-in-law with rare poison

·2 min read
Former Iraq leader Saddam Hussein sits in court in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006 - NIKOLA SOLIC /Reuters
Former Iraq leader Saddam Hussein sits in court in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006 - NIKOLA SOLIC /Reuters

An Indian property businessman has been accused of taking inspiration from Saddam Hussein to poison his wife and in-laws with a rare chemical element.

Delhi police arrested Varun Arora for suspected murder after his mother-in-law died and tests found she had high levels of thallium in her body.

The chemical has become notorious for its use by poisoners and was favoured by the Iraqi dictator's secret police when disposing of dissidents and enemies.

Detectives said a laptop belonging to Arora had been used for web searches on the effects of the element and Saddam's history of using it.

The element can be difficult to spot, but causes a slow death accompanied by lethargy, numbness, black-outs, slurred speech, general debility and hair loss.

A number of dissident Iraqi scientists were killed in the 1980s and at least two opponents of Saddam in the 1990s only survived after they fled to London for treatment.

Arora's father-in-law tipped off police, saying his wife had died and he suspected his son in law of murder. Arora, aged 39, had cooked a family fish supper laced with thallium, alleged Devendra Mohan Sharma.

A 1990s mural of Saddam with Nebuchadnezzar behind him Daily Life In Iraq  -  Scott Peterson/Liaison
A 1990s mural of Saddam with Nebuchadnezzar behind him Daily Life In Iraq - Scott Peterson/Liaison

Arora's wife has been in a coma since February and his sister-in-law died around the same time, Indian Express reported.

Subsequent tests have shown high levels of thallium in the bodies of his wife, and mother-and-father-in-law.

“We also found out that Arora had ordered thallium through an online pharmacist after claiming that he and his father-in-law were making a homeopathy medicine for coronavirus. We tracked the person who delivered the package and he identified Arora,” an officer alleged.

Agatha Christie is sometimes blamed for popularising the use of thallium among poisoners after writing about its effects in the 1961 mystery The Pale Horse.

The most notorious thallium poisoner in the UK was Graham Young, who in 1971 put thallium sulphate into his workmates' coffee at a photographic equipment factory at Bovingdon, Hertfordshire. Several workers were taken ill and two died of the mysterious 'bug'.

A police statement reported in the Indian media says he has confessed.

"Varun Arora admitted to have procured thallium and also to have administered it to Anita (mother in law), Divya (wife), Devender Mohan (father in law) and Priyanka (sister in law) to take revenge from them as he claimed he had long been subjected to humiliation by them.

"Further, at the instance of accused Varun Arora, Thallium was found at his home," according to a statement from Deputy Commissioner of Police Urvija Goel.

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