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Autopsy reveals ‘unnatural’ death of Indian minister’s wife

AFP-JIJI

The wife of Indian Junior Foreign Minister Shashi Tharoor — found dead in a luxury hotel after accusing her husband of being unfaithful — suffered an “unnatural, sudden death,” a doctor who performed an autopsy on her body said Saturday.

“More tests” are needed to determine the cause of Sunanda Pushkar’s death, and the final results will not be known for several days, Sudhir Gupta, one of three doctors who performed the autopsy, told reporters.

He added that Pushkar’s body had “some physical injuries,” but it was unclear whether they were related to her death. Organ samples were taken for further tests, he said.

The autopsy report will be submitted to authorities Monday, Gupta said.

After the autopsy Tharoor, dressed in a long white Indian kurta, and other mourners carried his wife’s shrouded body on a litter garlanded with marigolds for cremation according to Hindu rites.

Top figures in the ruling Congress Party rallied round Tharoor, a former high-flying U.N. diplomat, author and key Indian government spokesman.

Prime minister Manmohan Singh wrote he was with the minister “in this hour of grief,” while Congress President Sonia Gandhi paid him a condolence visit at his home.

Tharoor found his wife dead in their opulent hotel suite Friday, two days after she made a string of dramatic claims on Twitter accusing him of having an affair with a Pakistani journalist, Mehr Tarar.

“There were no signs of any foul play,” Tharoor’s aide Abhinav Kumar told reporters. “She seemed to be sleeping in a normal way but later it was found she was dead.”

A police probe has been launched into her death.

Earlier Saturday, Tharoor was admitted to the same top government hospital where his wife’s autopsy was performed after complaining of “general chest discomfort,” a hospital spokeswoman told reporters.

But his test results were normal and he was released. Television footage showed him leaving the hospital looking ashen.

Pushkar, 52, a Dubai-based entrepreneur before marrying Tharoor in 2010, had been taking medications for various illnesses, including tuberculosis, according to local media.

Television channel Times Now reported that early autopsy results suggested she may have overdosed on anti-depressants and sleeping pills.

In one of her last tweets, which later appeared to have been removed, she wrote: “Whatever is destined to happen will happen, will go smiling.”

The tragedy sent shockwaves through New Delhi’s social set. Friends had described Pushkar as the “life of any party” and praised her as warm and generous.

Indian newspapers splashed the death on their front pages Saturday. “Soon after Twitter war, Sunanda Pushkar found dead in Delhi hotel,” said the tabloid Mail Today in a headline.

The couple appeared deeply in love when they wed and were a glamorous pair on the party scene, but the rumor mill had been abuzz for months with talk of marital problems.

Events began unfolding late Wednesday when a curious messages appeared on the Twitter account of the thrice-married Tharoor.

They showed private exchanges purportedly between the 57-year-old minister (@shashitharoor) and Pakistani journalist Tarar (@mehrtarar), in which she professed her love for him and he said his wife had discovered their relationship.

Tharoor, the minister for human resource development known as “Mr. Twitter” with over 2 million followers, quickly responded by saying his account was “hacked” — but Pushkar told newspapers she had sent the messages.

She also raked up a corruption scandal related to the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament that almost wrecked Tharoor’s career in 2010.

Both Pushkar and Tharoor denied any wrongdoing.

Seeking to draw a line under the Twitter row, Tharoor issued a statement Thursday in which he blamed unauthorized tweets and distorted media reports for the “unseemly controversy.”

The statement said the couple were “happily married.”

Television anchor Sagarika Ghose said she spoke to Pushkar on Friday, saying she appeared depressed and was sobbing uncontrollably.

The Pakistani journalist whom Pushkar accused of “stalking” her husband denied having a relationship with the former U.N. diplomat.

On learning of Pushkar’s death, Tarar tweeted: “I’m absolutely shocked. This is too awful for words. So tragic I don’t know what to say.” She added: “Rest in peace, Sunanda.”