July 24, 2011

Fell 'em


The Chief Editor,

Times of India.

July 4,1937


Re: the case file – The Sen-sational Murders.

Dear Sir.

I was one of the first reporters to cover, track and investigate the incident and I am the last one left after all these years. I don’t have many moons left to witness, so here is an account of what you always wanted to know. My account of the Sen-sational double murder saga. A mystery, which is still not solved – even after 19 years.

A story, which you refused to buy at the time.


The Ménage

It was a family of four. With a few more years to his retirement, Mr.Arun Sen had mixed feelings about his life ahead. He had made his monies over the years, but the real assets were his palatial houses in the suburbs and 40 acres of land he had inherited from his ancestors. They were the landlords.

Being the General Manager of a steel factory, he was provided with a nice little bungalow with well-manicured lawns as a part of the company perks. Though even at 56,he looked fit and healthy, a tall frame and stocky hands, salt n pepper hair added to his magnificently aristocratic looks.

Mrs.Aparna Sen a quite shy homemaker, slightly on the heavier side, with lovely artistic qualities managed what was her second home. She was once divorced for the very same qualities. She played the piano rather well. She came from one Bengal’s affluent families connected to royalty.

Mr.Sen’s previous wife Kajol Devi, ,had died under mysterious circumstances. As documented, she died of a severe headache. No one could quite relate to it, yet no one had any reason to disagree. She often did complain of acute migraine attacks. She bore two daughters for the Sen family, they affectionately called the elder one - Madhubala.

Madhubala was a beauty par excellence. Everything about her features seemed angelic.Beuatiful long deep eyes, near full pink lips, spotless complexion, hair neatly combed and she smelt exotic.

Madhubala, unlike her younger sister, was the brash one, albeit the quietly brash one. You would never see her scream or shout, but she would be behind most mischiefs around the neighborhood. She always capitalized on her innocent looks. Such was the dichotomy of her personality.

Years had passed after Kajol Devi’s demise, and Mr.Sen was advised to re-marry, as he had a little daughter to take care of – Madhumati. A young petit lass, very unlike her father and sister, yet at an early age she showed signs of having a strong mind of her own.

In fact the only common thing she had with her father was her height.

There was always a debate in the neighborhood about who was more beautiful. But she never cared. She had a simple philosophy in life – make the most of what you already have, rather than wait for something you may never have.

Dressing up therefore was need-based. Pastel colored sarees, a small bindi , and hair neatly tied as a bun. Though she had long hair, the bun was always neatly pinned, not even a strand would escape. She was a very presentable lady. She was quite vocal about any injustice happening in her environment. She once slept out in the portico, as Mr.Sen refused to allow a stray dog to be kept in the house.!

Kalpana, the maid, often teased that maybe Madhumati was adopted. She bore little or no resemblance to her parents. Kalpana doubled up as a maid & governess of the family and the child respectively .She had been with the Sen family for almost 7 years now and had gone on to become a loyal and trusted aide. She knew the family well, and kept the family secrets guarded from the prodding relatives.

Kalpana was on the shorter and heavier side, dark complexioned and yet had a magnetic look about her. She never married, the reasons varied, but no one knew the truth.

Madhumati and Madhubala’s maternal uncle Mahendra Lal Dutta was a frequent visitor to the Sen residence. In his mid-forties he looked every inch a spoilt landlord. A satin off-white Kurta, with a gorgeously tied Dhoti, and the shawl over his left shoulder, well oiled-back brushed hair, a thick gold chain on his neck and a classical gold watch.

With multiple tea-estates inherited, his only job was supervision and collecting taxes. His behavior on the field contradicted his looks. He was kind to the labourers,helpers and their family.

The Murder Victims

Mr. And Mrs. Sen were murdered between 10AM – 11.30AM that day.

If you took a photograph of the room the incident happened, you would be surprised about the calmness of it all. Everything else about the living room was in perfect order.

Except Mr.Sen.

He was sitting on his favorite rocking chair with his head chopped into a bloody mass. No features from his face remained cognizable. It seemed as if someone had ploughed through his head with an axe. His head was bent slightly to the right and his face had been cut by several blows .His left eyeball was cleanly split into two and was protruding from his face. The nose had been severed. Most of the cuts were within a small area extending from the eye and nose to the ear. Blood was still seeping from the wounds. There were spots of blood on the floor, on the wall above the sofa and on a picture hanging on the wall. It appeared that he had been attacked from above and behind him.

Aparna Sen, was on the second floor. She lay down on the floor between the bed and the window in the northwest corner of the house. She was stretched full length with one arm extended, as if she was trying to reach for something or someone. On her left temple ,blood clots showed signs of about eleven wounds. A thick clot of blood circled the head and shoulders on the carpet. It appeared she was hit on top and back of her skull decisively repeatedly with a sharp object at first, then probably with a blunt object.

There appeared no signs of any robbery or break-in, as the ease with which the corpses lay, bore no testimony of any scuffle. The coat hanger was occupied with Mr.Sen’s overcoat. The home slippers were ready to be worn. The ease of posture of the corpse indicated he was in a relaxed mood, probably asleep when this happened. No jewelry was stolen, no cupboard was ransacked, everything was left undisturbed.

(Had to be an insider, I thought)

The Murder Weapon

Generally accepted fact was a wooden axe with a blunt back. The depth of the hits on Mr.Sen’s face was a sharp reminder that the blades were new. The dent on the back of Mr.Sen’s skull was reflective of the blunt back of the axe. It would have required great strength to crack the skull so decisively.

The blood on Mr.Sen’s body was dark and had coagulated.

But the sharp piercings were unexplained. No one heard anything around the neighborhood. So the possibility of a gunshot was not relevant. Neither was any bullet shrapnel found.

There were no other clues on the crime scene to lead the way to the actual murder weapon. All was but speculation.

The sketch of the murderer was becoming evident. It had to be someone with strong forearms, someone taller than 5 feet 8 inches (Mr.Sen’s height),someone known to the family, and possibly holds a personal grudge. A very deep one at that.Comiting such a heinous act needed some amount of planning, as the crime scene did not look like a hit-n-run case. It was a plan well thought through and executed ruthlessly.

The actual murder weapon was never found.

The Motive.

To commit such a terrible crime needed to have a massive motive. Without the real motive this act of ruthlessness could not have been carried out. It also points to the fact that the motive was not something that might have built up over night. It must be simmering for a long time. And on that fateful day, it just might have snapped.

The strong motivation also pointed at a strong will. Even when someone has an adrenalin rush one is quite aware of his or her actions. Besides the rush does not last long.So what happened after the killer’s initial adrenalin died? How did the murderer sustain it to commit a double murder?

Sometimes motivations dwindle as one see’s gore and blood. It has a strong reversible impact on the brain and sanity pushes in, reality pushes in, and perhaps remorse kicks in.However, in this case, none of that was evident.

The Malefactor

Let us review the and consider all of the people alive as suspects.

Kalpana – she was the closest to the family, knew their secrets and had access to them at all times. However, she was just 5 feet 2 inches tall. Reaching for Mr.Sen’s face would have been an ardent task. Needless to say Mr.Sen was more powerful and strong as well. He could have easily defended her off.

Mahendra Lal Dutta – the uncle fit the bill of strong and tall. He would easily over power someone of the stature of Mr.Sen. Besides working in the tea-estates would have gotten him access to cutters and axes for sure.However,what he lacked – was motive. Money was certainly not the issue, his sister was married happily into a good family and Mr.Sen treated his wife well. So there was no element of getting back or revenge.

Madhubala – was the softer of the two sisters. She was brought up comfortably, she was well taken care of by the family, and even if she were to be married off, she would inherit 50% of Mr.Sen’s property – so in the list of suspects she was probably the lowest count. On the flip side, she was always the mischievous one. She was secretive about all the pranks played. And there lies the difference as well. Pranks and crime are two different genres altogether.

Madhumati –The younger daughter of the family, she was always the vocal one against any injustice. By the look of it – there was no injustice happening within the family, else it would have been brought up earlier. The only suspicion comes from the fact that she was as tall as her father, had access to the family and some motive comes from the fact that she did not like the stepmother. But this argument is defeated by the fact that Mr.Sen, her father was killed as brutally as her step mother.

The Menology

The sequence of events occurred in the following order.

At about 11.10 am Kalpana , who was cleaning the attic on the third floor heard a loud scream –

‘Kalpana come down right now’ screamed Madhumati.

‘What’s the matter’ Kalpana retorted startled.

‘Father is dead. Someone’s come in and killed him’. Madhumati shouted.

When Kalpana hurried downstairs, she found Madhumati standing at the back door.

Madhumati stopped her from going into the living room –

"Don't go in there. Go and get the doctor. Run.".

Kalpana ran across the street to their neighbor and family physician, Dr.Bardhan who was out on house-calls, so she informed Mrs.Bardhan and ran back to the house.

At about 11:15 a.m. the police station, about four hundred yards from the house, received a message to rush to the Sen residence.

In the meanwhile, the neighbor to the North, Mrs. Anamika Chatterjee, saw that something distressful was happening at the Sen household. She called across to Madhumati, who was at the back entrance of the house and asked if anything was wrong.

Madhumati responded by saying, ‘please come over! Someone has killed Baba!"

‘Where is ma? Mrs.Chatterjee queried.

‘I don’t know’ Madhumati replied.

‘I had sent Kalpana to get Dr.Bardhan – but he is unavailable’ Madhumati continued after a second.

‘Ok I will send Govardhan, to look for a doctor and find some help. I’ll be there right away. Then she turned around to look for the domestic help to apprise him of the new task at hand.

At about 11.30 – Dr. Bardhan arrived.

He examined the body and asked for a towel to cover the face and a sheet to cover the body. Kalpana was back by then and Madhumati was standing right beside Mrs.Chatterjee in the living room.

‘Please call Madhubala and ask her to reach out to her mother calmly and let her know that Mr.Sen has met with an unfortunate accident.’ Dr.Bardhan announced calmly.

‘Dr.Bardhan didi,has gone out of the house for some work - but Kalpana – why don’t you go upstairs and call Ma – I think I heard her coming down.’ Madhumati suggested.

Kalpana refused to go up – so Mrs.Chatterjee volunteered. Reluctantly Kalpana followed her footsteps. No sooner they had reached the second floor ,Mrs.Chatterjee let out a shriek. Mrs.Sen’s body lay on the floor in a pool of blood.

‘There’s another one’ she gasped.

Madhumati said ‘Dr.Bardhan, it’s Mrs.Sen – you need to see if she has a chance.’

11.45 a.m.

The reporters and the police arrived.

The police investigation began in earnest. Officer Manik Nath asked Madhumati if there were any hatchets in the house.

"Yes, she said. "They are everywhere. – Kalpana why don’t you show them to Manik babu’.

Manik and Kalpana went down to the basement and found four hatchets, one with dried blood and hair on it — cow's blood and hair, as it was later determined — a second rusty claw-headed hatchet, and two that were dusty. One of these was without a handle and covered in ashes. The break appeared to be recent.

About this time, Mahendra Lal returned, strolling into the backyard, picking some pears and eating them. Totally caught by surprise ,shock and despair he broke down crying and sat in the opposite corner of the living room.

The officers queried both Mahendra Lal and Madhumati about their whereabouts from 10.00 am to 11.30 am separately.

‘I was invited for lunch by Mr.Sen today. I spent the mornings with my usual rounds at the tea estate.’

So who do you think did it ? Uncle Mahendra, Kalpana or someone else? asked the officer to Madhumati.

‘I don’t know – father was not the type to have enemies.’

‘And what about your mother?’

‘My stepmother – Mrs.Sen had an argument with someone a few weeks ago’ Madhumati shot back at the officer.

It was almost 3 p.m. and Madhubala had still not returned that afternoon. Something quite unusual. She would never be out so late. The day ended with the bodies being removed for funeral and many onlookers gathered right outside the house speculating the various suspects.

The house was quiet but not quite empty.

A little later in the evening, Mrs.Chatterjee from the balcony overlooking the backyard of the Sen household – saw Madhubala in the kitchen….near the stove, burning a dress.

‘I looked out of the window and waved to Mrs.Chatterjee.’

~ M.

July 4,1956.Darjeeling.

Gyanban Thoughts - this story is losely based on the Borden family murders.The research has been done from Wikipedia and embeded research crime libraries.This fictional tale is laced with the real story and the case is still unresolved.The main accused ,the younger sister was charged with three murders, one of her father, one of her mother and strangely one for both of them ! She was acquitted.The prosecution could not prove conclusively who had actually all the critical factors behind a crime, like motive,ability,intent and plan. thought I have figured out who it could be and how it was done - I will keep it for another story.

The title Fell em - could be read as Fell M, or to fell (axe) or kill them.

I'd love to hear your point of view and see if you figured who done it?

image courtesy :desktopnexus.com


  1. I got a little confused in between with Madhubala and Madhumati :( Such similar sounding names. So, at the end, Madhubala had returned home and was seen burning a dress???!! Where was Madhmati? Why did she ask for a doctor when she knew her father was already dead? I found that part a bit weird. Have you concluded the story? Or is there a second part?

  2. @Debosmita - thanks for dropping by and appreciate your feedback.Will try to improve next time.The similar sounding names were by design, I guess to understand the subtleties one needs to read the story carefully.
    If you read the introducton and footnotes carefully - it gives you the answers to your queries.

  3. Excellent narrative. Sorry you missed the Blog-a-ton deadline. I think Madhubala was the murderer. Comes more by elemination. Let us first eleminate some random theories like a tramp walking in and killing the couple and walking off. There can be others with motive - A laid off union worker or Aparana Sen's old husband. Either of them's spurned extra marital lovers. But lets leave such hypothesis out and think who we have. I would eleminate Madhubala and Kalpana. They appear too calm immedeately after such a high adrelanin murder. Difficuly for a one time murderer to murder, dispose of the weapon, come back immedeately and appear calm and composed. The uncle does not seem to have motive. If we wanted to revenge for his sister's death, it is too late. I am assuming he is old wife's brother. So that leaves only Madhubala. She must have discovered her father and step mom had a hand in her mom' murder. Also she gains monetarily if mom and dad die and sister is convicted.

    By the way if you have time, check out my Blog-a-ton post this time: Revenge

  4. Very realistic narration!

  5. I will second Debosmita - The sister's names got a bit confusing. Had to read that part twice.

    A gripping story, well narrated. But why would Madhubala want to kill her father? Does it have anything to do with her mother's death?

  6. @The fool - I really hope to write a bit more frequently so next time blog-a-ton is up will try and participate. As I mentioned in the footnote and in the introduction - this mystery is till unsolved.! In my next episode , I will probably write my analysis of the crime and conclude who could be the real killer.Watch this space!

    @aativas - thanks, good to see you here after a long time.

    @Purba - like said before,that is by design, and not just the sisters,even the uncles name is with M you see.
    Thanks for the appreciation.

    Why Madhubala killed her father or did MAdhumati kill or did they work in tandem, are all possibilities, each having a different set of motive.But the point is to find out which one or two of the suspects have all the 4 elements - motive,intent,ability and plan - to execute the crime.


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