The death toll in a serial murder case that has shocked India may top 40 after detectives found over a dozen more skulls stashed in plastic bags, a report said yesterday.
"In the 40 bags, we have found more than a dozen skulls," an unnamed senior official of the federal Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) told the Hindustan Times newspaper.
"Apart from this, the other human remains found in the bags indicate that the death toll could cross 40," the official said.
The CBI declined to confirm the figures officially, but said in a statement that "biomaterials" in more than 40 polythene bags were recovered from the drain in front of the house of the two men accused of the lurid crimes.
"The seized materials have been sent to the laboratory for post mortem," the federal agency said in a statement posted on its Web site on Monday.
Local police say at least 17 people, mostly children, have been confirmed murdered in the area outside New Delhi. The CBI said it had so far registered 19 various cases of kidnapping, rape and murder of children and women.
The new finds have been made in the past three days around a bungalow that the media has dubbed the "House of Horrors," where the main suspects -- affluent businessman Moninder Singh Pander and servant Surender Koli -- lived.
The gruesome details of the murders have shocked India.
Koli has reportedly admitted under interrogation that he raped children as young as three, had sex with the corpses of his victims and once tried to eat human organs, believing cannibalism cured impotency.
Police were earlier investigating if the murders had been committed so that organs such as kidneys could be sold off, as the torsos of the victims appeared to be missing.
According to the media, the plastic bags contained torsos as well. The CBI, however, did not say whether it would continue probing the organs trade angle.
The CBI official told the Hindustan Times that the latest discoveries had been made on the basis of information the suspects gave to their interrogators under the influence of sodium penthanol, or so-called "truth serum."
Most of the remains have been found in a sewage drain around the house. The CBI was using heavy machinery to clean up the area.
Agency detectives swooped down yesterday at the businessman's sprawling warehouse in the industrial Noida district to search for more clues, witnesses said.
The detectives also dug up a section inside the businessman's house, police said.
Residents of the village of Nithari, where most of the victims came from, say up to 38 children went missing over the past three years, but their pleas were ignored by local police because they were poor.
Under fire from politicians and the media, six policemen were sacked, three suspended for neglect and the investigations transferred to the CBI.
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