A man who killed his wife by starving a cobra and setting it free in her bedroom as she slept has been handed a double life sentence.
Uthra Kumar, 25, died after her husband used the highly venomous snake as a weapon to murder her.
Sooraj Kumar was found guilty of setting the reptile upon the wealthy woman after he grew tired of the relationship, the court in Kerala, India, was told. She couldn’t be saved spending two months in hospital.
It was his third attempt at killing the woman with the creatures – and he was undone by an expert who told jurors these type of snakes do no climb, and the cobra had likely been placed in the room.
At his trial last month, the country’s Supreme Court suggested it may be part of a growing trend where killers use poisonous snakes to pass off deaths as accidental.
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According to prosecutors, Kumar married his wife for “financial gain” but soon plotted to end her life.
They said he became “dissatisfied” with the marriage and began conspiring to kill her.
Prosecutors said Kumar purchased a poisonous cobra from a snake charmer, starved it for a week to “render it more aggressive” and induced it to bite his wife.
Hariram Shankar, assistant superintendent of police in Kerala, told NBC News that the creature’s abdomen was empty.
“If he divorces her he will have to part with all her wealth,” he said.
“If he kills her through an explicit murder weapon, the wealth would also have to be returned. So he wanted to get rid of her through something that would resemble an accident.
“But in the course of our investigation, we found that this was a well-planned murder.”
The man said the snake appeared in the first floor room – but that was unlikely to be the case.
“The viper is a completely terrestrial snake,” Shankar told the network.
“It is determined to live on the ground. It does not climb, but the viper was found in the bedroom of their home’s second floor after the first attempt.”
Kumar’s lawyer Aditya Choudhary said he had “argued that if the prosecution’s case is to be believed, then the snake was not accompanied by a snake charmer. Once it is let free it can bite anyone.”
Death by snakebite is common in India, with 1.2 million reported from 2000 to 2019, according to the World Health Organisation.