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Sunday, May 21, 2006, The Telegraph

Fatehpur: The dead don’t talk, but numbers can. And this one — 312364-77 — is a “revelation”.

Police in this Uttar Pradesh district are banking on these eight digits to unlock the mystery behind the death of 38-year-old Vidyawati who threw herself into her husband’s pyre on Thursday before some 200 villagers who did nothing to stop her, reports our special correspondent.

The police believe the number holds the key as it implies Rs 10 lakh — the sum Vidyawati would have got for being named a nominee by her husband Lakhanpal Lodhi in the life insurance policy he had registered last year.

The investigators have found out that the policy agent, one Anil Kumar Singh whose code is 77, is the brother of Rohit Singh, the alleged lover of Vidyawati, who they suspect might be involved in bumping off Lakhanpal.

The 42-year-old farmer and labour contractor was found dead with injury marks on May 15, three days before the “sati” in Rarhi Bujurg, a village about 30 km from here.

“The LIC policy no 312364 is a major revelation. This could be the motive for murdering Lakhanpal,” said Fatehpur senior superintendent of police Bir Bahadur Singh.

“Vidyawati would have been richer by Rs 10 lakh had she been alive. We suspect the hand of Rohit in the murder. Once that is proved, the theory that Vidyawati had jumped into the pyre of her husband out of remorse and guilt would be confirmed.”

The police think Rohit planned to marry Vidyawati — a mother of three teenagers — and plotted the murder so that she could get the money.

Singh said Lakhanpal died just a year after the policy was registered, one of the conditions for getting the full assured amount in case of premature death of a policyholder. But he is not sure if Vidyawati knew of the murder plot. The SSP said Lakhanpal’s son, Niraj, was arrested today in connection with the sati. The 18-year-old was present when his father was being cremated.