“I am not an idiot,” said Purushottam Naidu as police officers went around his lavish three-storey home in Andhra Pradesh, taking in traces of what appeared to be gruesome ritual murders. His two daughters were dead, struck with a dumbbell and a trident, blood everywhere.
They had been killed allegedly by their mother Padmaja, who was heard in a video wailing at her husband in the presence of policemen: “Why could you not have waited half an hour? If you had kept your faith, our girls would have come alive.”
Alekhya (27) and Sai Vidya (23) allegedly bled out on the floor after an elaborate ritual that their parents believed would lead to their resurrection as a happy family.
Purushottam Naidu has since come out of his “trance” partially, police officers say. He couldn’t bear to see his daughters bleed to death and called his friend, who alerted the police.
But his wife continues to make delusional statements.
“I am Shiva. Coronavirus came from my body, not from China,” Padmaja said yesterday, resisting a Covid test in prison in Chittoor.
“I am telling you coronavirus will go away by March. No need for vaccines.” As her husband tried to reason with her, she snapped: “Right now, you are not my husband. I am Shiva.”
How a well-educated, affluent family came to this is something the police are trying to piece together from evidence in the house in Madanapalle town of Andhra Pradesh, and from friends and neighbours.
Purushottam Naidu has a PhD in Chemistry and was a government college lecturer. His wife, a gold medalist in math, ran an IIT Talent School. On Sunday evening, they killed their daughters apparently with the strong belief they would both come back to life.
Padmaja told the police it was she who hit her daughters with a dumbbell. “If there was no evil spirit, would they have survived 4-5 hours?”
She went on: “Kalyuga is ending and Satyuga is beginning”.
Recent social media posts of the daughters, especially in their final week, suggested they were in a similar state of mind as their parents.
“The entire family was extremely superstitious. Even the girls seem to have been convinced by what their parents intended to do,” senior police officer Senthil Kumar told NDTV.
Alekhya and Sai Vidya had both shared photos of the usual family holidays, but their recent posts indicated they were in a different mental zone.
“Shiva will come,” said one such post.
A video accessed by NDTV shows what the parents said and did in the house after the police entered and found the bodies.
Purushottam tells officer Ravi Manohara Chari in the video: “I am not an idiot. I am a PhD in chemistry”.
“Had the police not intervened, the couple would have killed themselves too, in the belief that all of them would later come alive,” the district police chief told NDTV.
The couple have claimed they had witnessed the supernatural in the past. “My daughter had a skin allergy and it disappeared with prayers,” the father said.
Alekhya had an engineering degree and a post graduate management degree from the Institute of Forest Management at Bhopal. She had worked as a project manager for six months and had returned home to prepare for the civil services exam. Her younger sister was a business management graduate and was pursuing a career in music at a Chennai institute.
Both came home during the lockdown last year and the family had little contact with the outside world. In the four days before the murders, they had let no one near their house.
Neighbours reportedly noticed unusual activities and were told it was all for a puja.