India: man ‘inspired by Saddam Hussein’ accused of poisoning family with thallium

Police say Varun Arora laced fish curry with dangerous chemical

Varun Arora, 37, took cues from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and used thallium to poison his wife and in-laws. Courtesy Delhi police

A man accused of double murder in India told police he was inspired by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein when he poisoned his wife and her parents with thallium, a substance used in rodent and insect poisons.

Varun Arora, 37, a businessman from New Delhi, allegedly held a grudge against his in-laws for supporting his wife Divya Sharma’s decision to abort their third child last year.

He claimed the child was the reincarnation of his father.

Authorities said Mr Arora laced a fish curry with thallium in January, causing mother-in-law Anita Devi Sharma, 62, and sister-in-law Priyanka, 27, to become ill.

They were treated in hospital and died a month later.

His wife, 35, is on a ventilator at a city hospital, police said.

His father-in-law, Devendra Mohan Sharma, and a domestic worker recovered after weeks of treatment.

Varun Arora, a 37-year-old businessman from New Delhi fed thallium laced fish to his wife and her parents to take revenge for humiliation. Courtesy Delhi police

Mr Arora was arrested on Tuesday. Police detained him after the release of the autopsy and blood tests from the victims on March 22.

They confirmed traces of the chemical in the women's bodies.

"He was arrested after he confessed to poisoning the in-laws with thallium," Urvija Goel, a senior Delhi police officer told The National.

Another police officer said Mr Arora was inspired by Saddam and his tactics of using the substance to kill his opponents, mostly Kurds, by slow poisoning.

“He told us he read about it in detail before ordering the tasteless and colourless toxic chemical for $300 from an online pharmacist in December,” the officer said.

Police also found a small bottle of the poison in his home.

Thallium is a bluish-white metal found in the Earth's crust and used mostly in manufacturing electronic devices, switches and in the manufacture of special glass for medical procedures.

The substance was banned in several countries after decades of use as an ingredient in rat poison and other pesticides.

Ms Goel said that Mr Arora threw a dinner at his in-laws’ house in January and cooked the fish but excused himself from the dinner, saying his jaw hurt.

He also spared his twin children, whom he fed milk instead of the cooked fish.

Mr Arora's bitterness was fuelled by the abortion of the couple's third child last year, who he believed was a reincarnation of his father who died few months ago, Ms Goel said.

The officer said complications with Ms Sharma's pregnancy had led to the decision to abort. The accused believed this was done on the advice of her parents and sister, the officer said.