On Tuesday morning, when V Padmaja, principal of Masterminds IIT Talent School in Madanapalli town of Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh, was brought in for a coronavirus test to the taluk hospital — ahead of her arrest for allegedly murdering her two daughters — she was incoherent.
“Corona did not come from China… it came from Shiva. I am Shiva and corona will be gone by March,” she said as medical staff attempted to get a nasal swab for an RT-PCR test.
Padmaja and her husband Dr V Purushotham Naidu, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Vice Principal at the Government Degree College in Madanapalli, have been arrested for allegedly bludgeoning their two daughters, Alekhya, 25, and Sai Divya, 22, to death with dumbbells at their home in Teachers’ Colony area on January 24.
On Tuesday, with Padmaja in a state of agitation, Naidu stood quietly aside after providing a nasal swab for the Covid test. “I have no comments,” he said, when asked about the events that led to his daughters’ being killed.
Late Tuesday evening, when the couple were presented at the residence of a civil judge, both walked in calmly and were remanded in judicial custody for 14 days.
The Madanapalli police and others are trying to piece together — from statements given by the couple and people known to them as well as evidence from the crime scene — the events that led to the murders in the Naidu home.
“It seems like the whole family was involved in some extreme religious belief. The deaths are a result of this,” said DSP of Madanapalli taluk, Ravi Manohar Achari.
Friends and acquaintances of the family share similar versions, the only point of difference being whether the parents or their children were responsible for the alleged occult practices in the house.
“They were all in it together,” said a policeman who involved in the custody of the couple after their arrest.
All around the house — the family moved into the plush, three-storey house in August last year — are paraphernalia such as lemons and aloe vera linked to religious ceremonies.
Police were tipped off about the murders by a former teacher at the Masterminds school, whom Naidu had contacted after the murders.
When police reached the house, they found Alekhya, an MBA graduate who was preparing for the civil services, with her head battered by a dumbbell, her hair burnt, and a piece of metal stuffed into her mouth. The younger girl, Sai Divya, a student of dance at the A R Rahman music academy in Chennai, was found dead — stabbed with a trident and battered with a dumbbell.
“The parents had no injuries on them but seemed to be in a trance, saying the girls will return,” a police official said.
Others, including those who have worked with the couple, however, say they find it hard to believe stories about the couple’s alleged involvement in occult practices.
“I have known the principal of the Masterminds school for over 25 years. I cannot believe she could have done this,” said a worker at the Masterminds school.
“They were reasonable people. They were rational about Covid and other things. They were spiritual people but nothing extreme,’’ said a relative of Padmaja.
One of the theories doing the rounds in Madanapalli is that one of the daughters was drawn to extreme religious beliefs and would often position herself as God. Her social media accounts, in the days leading to her death, has posts on these lines.
“It seems one of the girls told the parents that they can only get rid of evil by killing them (the daughters), but that they would not die,” a police official said on condition of anonymity. “We have to verify if any one in the family received treatment for mental illness,” a police official said.
For now, police are treating this as a straight case of murder under Section 302 of the IPC.