NEW YORK — Police in India have launched a murder investigation into the death last year of a Toronto-born businesswoman whose husband — a former United Nations official who was a leading candidate to lead the organization — had faced allegations he was having an affair with a Pakistani journalist.
Initial autopsy results suggested Sunanda Pushkar, 51, may have overdosed on anti-depressants and sleeping pills she’s believed to have been taking for various medical conditions in the lead-up to her death.
Her husband, Shashi Tharoor — currently a member of the Indian parliament and also known internationally as an acclaimed author — found her body on Jan 17, 2014, in their five-star hotel room in the Indian capital of Delhi.
But Delhi police chief Bhim Sain Bassi said Tuesday a new medical report showed Ms. Pushkar suffered an “unnatural death” and that suicide had also been ruled out.
‘Poison consumed by the victim was the cause of death’
“Poison consumed by the victim was the cause of death. Poison was either given orally or injected into the body,” Mr. Bassi told India’s NDTV.
The medical report, which police received on Dec. 29, also reportedly raises new questions about injuries found on Ms. Pushkar’s body and, said Mr. Bassi, had led investigators to register a case of murder “against unknown persons.”
“We will interrogate and investigate whosoever is required,” the police chief told reporters when asked if Mr. Tharoor would be questioned.
Police officials later confirmed witnesses facing questioning included Mr. Tharoor, his secretary, and — as the only other person present in the room when the body was found — his domestic help.
Mr. Tharoor, who served as undersecretary general during Kofi Annan’s leadership of the UN and who polled a close second to Ban Ki-moon to take the top spot in 2008, said he was “stunned” about the new direction in the police probe of his wife’s death.
“Needless to say I am anxious to see this case is investigated thoroughly and continue to assure the police of my full co-operation,” he wrote in a statement posted to Facebook.
“Although we never thought of any foul play in the death of my wife, we all want that a comprehensive investigation be conducted and that the unvarnished truth should come out.”
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Mr. Tharoor, for whom Toronto-born Ms. Pushkar was his third wife, also called for access to all information that led to the murder probe’s launch.
“We have not been provided copies of the post-mortem report and other reports of the inquiry like the [forensic] report. We repeat our request for a copy of these reports to be provided to us immediately,” said Mr. Tharoor.
Ms. Pushkar was living in Dubai when she and Mr. Tharoor met at a party in 2009 — two years after Mr. Tharoor had arrived in the emirate upon his exit from the UN, and with his then Canadian wife Christa Giles.
The couple married in 2010 but the marriage appeared troubled when Ms. Pushkar became embroiled in a Twitter spat with Pakistan-based journalist Mehr Tarar, accusing her of having an affair with her husband.
In a TV appearance just two days before her body was found, she and Mr. Tharoor said they were happily married. Following her death, there was speculation she had committed suicide because of humiliation over the alleged affair between her husband and Ms. Tarar.