What dark truths lie behind those doors?

first_imgWhat sort of people kill their children, or spouse? “Well, think of someone who’s at their breaking point,” offers Kolkata psychiatrist Dr Jai Ranjan Ram. Perhaps they feel like a loser or an outcast or they face constant criticism. They feel inadequate as a parent, or a spouse. And long,What sort of people kill their children, or spouse? “Well, think of someone who’s at their breaking point,” offers Kolkata psychiatrist Dr Jai Ranjan Ram. Perhaps they feel like a loser or an outcast or they face constant criticism. They feel inadequate as a parent, or a spouse. And long to set themselves free of all that. “And, then, one day, there is a trigger. The final straw.” The silence in his chamber is broken only by the hum of the air-conditioner and passing cars. So what does he think of the Fonseca family triple murders? Dr Ram smiles. “Both Jessica and Neil were my patients. It will be unethical on my part to comment on them.”That’s the talking point in a city that woke up on January 16 to the horrific triple murders in the Fonseca family. That’s also the latest angle the Kolkata police is probing. A family carnage that has gripped the nation, even as it tried to make sense of a raft of unresolved cases in recent times. The headlines have gone viral: ‘Mother killed twins in Kolkata triple murder,’ ‘Man says, was ‘forced to kill’ wife after she killed sons, attacked him,’ ‘Ideal family in dire straits,’ ‘Mental treatment before murder.’ The familiar horror is back: how did such a tragedy strike a seemingly picture-perfect family?Those who know the Fonsecas talk about January 15, a Friday, a day of weekly Bar Nights at the 157-year-old Dalhousie Institute, a social club fondly called “DI”. One of the liveliest places in town for music, public quizzing and sports, it has always had Anglo-Indian patrons: from hockey legend Leslie Claudius to Calcutta’s first family of quizzing, the O’Briens, to tennis champ, Leander Paes. That evening, the club was particularly crowded. Up on the little podium, new talent Lorena Dhar was crooning retro pop. With a host of expats back in the city for the International Anglo-Indian Reunion, there was a sea of known faces-couples, families, friends-sharing tables, nursing drinks, shaking a leg, singing and laughing together.Somewhere there, the fun-loving Fonseca family was having a good time: Jessica, 43, and husband Neil, 49-who had celebrated their 22nd wedding anniversary just the day before-their 16-year-old twin sons, Darren and Joshua, and 21-year-old daughter Samantha, back home on vacation from her university in the US. The twins played football on the club grounds while the adults were at the bar with friends. As was her wont, Jessica chatted, laughed, karaoked, had a bit of a tiff with Neil and then danced in close embrace with him, as the evening wound down to a close at 11 o’clock. It was her last dance. Next morning, Jessica and her twin sons were found murdered in a bedroom, while Neil was sent to hospital with a deep gash on his throat.advertisementWhat happened that night? There are two versions. According to the deputy commissioner of police (South East) Gaurav Sharma and officers of the homicide section of the detective department, it was an inside job. Yet Samantha, Neil’s mother Shirley and Jessica’s sister Shabana Anwar, who were present in the house at the time of the murders, have all claimed that they did not hear anything. Neil, who is unable to speak and is being treated, has given his version in writing. According to it, the Fonsecas had returned home a little past midnight. With daughter Samantha, Shirley and Shabana at home, the boys slept in the couple’s bedroom. At around 4 a.m., Jessica found Neil checking his phone. And confronted him with her suspicions of his infidelity, which turned vicious. He went off to the washroom and as he came out, he saw Jessica clubbing one of the twins with a heavy object. The other was already dead. He rushed towards her with a knife. She attacked him too with one. In the scuffle, Jessica fell and banged her head against the bedstead and died. Traumatised, Neil attempted suicide with a knife and blades. He admitted that he had killed her, but “in self-defence”.There is of course another version, reconstructed by the police. According to it, Samantha and Shabana were chatting in the dining room till the wee hours of morning. Around 1 a.m., they saw Neil closing the bedroom door, where Jessica and the twins were sleeping. Around 4.30 a.m., the two were still there when Neil came out, saw them and asked them to go and sleep. Samantha retired to Shirley’s room and Shabana to another bedroom. At 6.30 a.m., the driver rang the bell, followed by one of Neil’s clients at 7.30 a.m. When Shabana knocked on the bedroom door, Neil came out “with a strange look in his eyes”. He told her that Jessica and the twins were dead. Shabana ran and alerted close relatives. Eventually, when forced out of his bedroom, Neil had a deep gash in his throat. The police is now building a case of homicide against him. They believe he killed his wife and sons in cold blood, smashing their skulls with a heavy dumbbell in their sleep. And the injuries on his wrists, which he claimed occurred during the scuffle with his wife, were probably self-inflicted, said a senior police official. Viscera samples have been sent for tests to ascertain whether the victims were drugged before being killed.advertisementEven if the police can build a case, no one seems to have an answer to what was the motive. Neil ran his own interior decoration firm, Interiors Cal, on Hungerford Street. But for the last three years, his business had been in trouble. He had not been able to pay his apartment rent for the last many months. A regular at the races, he lost his racehorse Sartaj when the Royal Calcutta Turf Club auctioned it in September 2015, for “having failed to clear outstanding dues”. Yet, pleasant, soft-spoken, smart and gracious, he was everybody’s favourite club man, winning snooker titles for the DI and organising its projects sub-committee. Apparently, Neil has told the police that their marriage was under strain: first, over an affair he had some years ago and, second, over his diminishing savings, the constant need to cut back and the debts which were piling up. Was that why they were visiting Dr Ram for the past few years together? Neil was also visiting the doctor alone, even late last year. But according to his landlord, A. Seth’s family, “he was a genuinely nice guy”. Neighbours Mr and Mrs Gomes pay the same tribute to Neil: “Jessica did not interact much with us. But Neil was very friendly and polite.”So how did a “genuinely nice” person suddenly kill three innocent people that he was closest to, unprovoked? What could be the motive? “Family murders are very complex,” says Dr Manju Mehta, former head of psychology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi. “They usually have links with mental illness and chronic depression, extreme personal problems, unexpressed rage and frustration.” Both Jessica and Neil were consulting Dr Ram. The state of their minds was clearly an issue in the relationship. And there was perhaps more. But they are not alone: data from the National Crime Records Bureau’s annual publication, Crime in India, 2015, shows that of the 37,313 murders and culpable homicides not amounting to murder, about 2,503 took place within the sanctity of the home-for love, lust, jealousy, guilt and revenge-seven per cent of all murders in India. Clearly, all is not well with the Great Indian Family.Meanwhile, Palm Avenue, where it all happened, has moved on. Policemen patrol the road where resident VIP, the erstwhile chief minister of West Bengal, Buddhadev Bhattacharjee, resides. The local underworld finds some excuse or the other to celebrate life, with lights that blink and music that rocks the walls. Opposite Bhattacharjee’s residence, a yellow three-storied building, 73/1C Palm Avenue, looms-a dark, menacing silhouette in the moonlight. Cracks of light leak through some of its slat-ted windows. The top floor is pitch dark. This is where the Fonseca family had built its nest for nine long years. This is where it destroyed itself in just one night.advertisementFollow the writer on Twitter @DattaDamayantilast_img