The circumstances of Maldivian model Raudha Athif’s death are still shrouded in mystery, even after the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of police submitted the final charge sheet in the case on Wednesday.
The CID report says it was a case of suicide, echoing the previous reports submitted by the local police and the Detective Branch (DB). However, Raudha’s doctor father, Mohamed Athif, hotly disputes the law enforcement agency reports, pointing out numerous inconsistencies and calling it a “murder cover-up.”
Raudha, a second-year student of Islami Bank Medical College in Rajshahi, was planning to move to Australia with her family. She was found hanging from a fan in her dorm room on March 29 .
In late September, an Australian team of TV journalists came to Bangladesh to investigate the murder. The 60 Minutes team from CBS interviewed the college staff and Raudha’s father, and spoke to the police.
However, an errant question of “what if the autopsy report was wrong?” resulted in them being confined to their hotel and their passports seized, before being escorted out of Rajshahi after 24 hours.
Mohamed Athif stated the ligature marks on her neck resembled homicidal strangulation more than hanging. He identified the deep impressions on her neck, which police and the autopsy report called “birthmarks”, as fingerprints and further evidence of a struggle.
Forensic experts from Dhaka said they would not pass comment on an autopsy done by another forensic expert. However, one expert seeking anonymity told the Dhaka Tribune that if one committed suicide by hanging, the marks should be just under the chin and right under the ear.
Furthermore, the initial report of “unnatural death” filed by local police was rejected by the court on the grounds of not following due process. When the case was transferred to the DB, the court again rejected their “suicide report” right around the time Raudha’s father accused her classmate Seerat Parveen of being involved in her murder.
The case was then transferred to the CID, who noted several things.
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Firstly, the fan from which Raudha allegedly hung herself did not show any signs of stress which would be consistent with suspending a heavy weight from it.
Secondly, the CID said the latch on Raudha’s door was not secure and would come loose if it was pounded on heavily. However, Mohamed Athif claims he pounded on the door several times, but found the latch tightly sealed.
The mystery is further exacerbated by the fact that Raudha’s Instagram account was active even the day after her death. It was abruptly deactivated the day after. Her account was accessed by someone, a loose end that is still to be traced.
Furthermore, Raudha had called her mother two weeks before her death and told her that Seerat had offered her a drink which had made her pass out. According to Raudha’s parents, Raudha suspected Seerat of hacking her social media accounts and invading her privacy.
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Furthermore, the CCTV camera outside Raudha’s room was “malfunctioning” on the night of her death. It became “functional” the day after.
Further of note, the first autopsy was conducted by a three-member team, two of whom were full-time faculty members at Islami Bank Medical College & Hospital where Raudha was studying and found dead. The third member of the team was a part-time faculty.
After the autopsy, two of them were transferred out from the district.
The second autopsy, after ordered by Rajshahi Metropolitan Court, was delayed for over a week. It was eventually conducted on April 24 but the findings were not published until August 9.
The second autopsy report claimed the body was too decomposed to verify the cause of death.