By Sukhi Anand, This is Local London Network
Saturday 16th December 2006
A MEMBER of a Hindu "sect" starved herself to death, just two years after her daughter died from malnutrition. Nirmala Vashram, 44, of Scarle Road, Wembley, weighed just under four stones when she was found in her bed last March.
Police believe the mother-of-two had been dead for some time when they found her emaciated body, an inquest heard yesterday morning. Mrs Vashram's daughter, Dina Premji, was only 20 when she also died of starvation in 2003.
Both women were devoted followers of Mataji, a little known branch of Hinduism and had been depriving themselves of food since a trip to India in 1999 when they met a "holy-man".
DS John Cardow, of Brent police, told Hornsey Coroner's Court: "Nirmala was a member of a sect. She was known to have extreme religious beliefs. Last March, her son called 999 and said his mother had stopped breathing. When the ambulance arrived they found her emaciated body. She looked skeletal and was in the foetal position. "She was regularly being supplied with food but refused to eat or drink."
It is believed Nirmala promised not to accept any form of western medical treatment as part of a penance she undertook in India. Doctor Michael Jarmulowicz, who carried out the post mortem, gave the cause of death as malnutrition and said: "She was the lightest adult I have ever examined.
"We could not straighten her legs at all."
The complex case was delayed by the remaining family's refusal to believe Dina or Nirmala were dead. Speaking after the inquest, DS Cardow said: "The family would never go against their mother's wishes and believed her death was god's will. Their concept of death is very different to ours, they were sending cards and gifts to the mortuary for months after her death.
"We believe Nirmala intended to return to the holy-man to have the penance removed but for some reason she took it to the extreme." Nirmala and her daughter were finally buried in a double funeral last year, which was carried out on behalf of Brent council.
Coroner Dr William Dolman recorded a verdict of "natural causes aggravated by self-neglect" and said: "Nirmala Vashram had voluntarily decided not to take food, clearly for some time. This was in response to a religious belief."