Police in the Indian state of Odisha have arrested a 42-year-old man following the brutal ax murder of a couple on September 8 of this year. The victims were 52-year-old Puna Hembram and his 50-year-old wife Singha who lived alone in their house in the Baripada Sadar Block of Odisha's Mayurbhanj district. According to police reports, Ratha waited until Puna and his wife had finished their dinner and gone to sleep before taking advantage of the darkness to hack them to death in their bed. Though the Hembram's had one married son, he was living with his own family.
The accused, Ratha Hembram, was Puna's younger brother who reportedly suspected the couple of practicing sorcery on him and his family. In his confession, Ratha said that he had become distressed following the deaths of three of his family members due to various diseases over the past three years. According to a press release issued by Baripada Sadar police, "“Ratha revealed that a tribal god appeared in his dream and blamed Puna and his wife for the deaths. The god advised him to kill the couple to ensure his family’s safety,” After having the dream, Ratha then began planning the older couple's death.
The bodies were discovered on the morning following the murder when neighbours found the couple lying in a pool of blood. Police and forensic teams found that most of the inflicted injuries were inflicted to their heads and necks. Upon being notified of the murder, their son immediately accused his uncle based on accusations of sorcery he had made in the past. The bodies have been sent for a forensic analysis while Ratha Hembram is being held.
While the killing of suspected witches has taken place in different parts of India, new legislation has led to a crackdown on allegations of sorcery. But witchcraft-related deaths continue to occur worldwide and the plight of suspected witches in countries across Africa, Asia, and South America remains bleak.