Andhra Murder: One Parent May Have ‘Induced Delusion’ in the Other

Psychiatrists, who did the primary evaluation of the couple, believe the mother has a chronic psychological illness.

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India
3 min read
An Andhra Pradesh-based teacher-couple allegedly killed their two daughters, believing that they could be resurrected.
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When Andhra Pradesh police arrested V Purushottam Naidu and his wife Padmaja on 26 January, they accused them both of killing their daughters – 27-year-old Aleikya and 22-year-old Sai Divya.

Psychiatrists who did primary evaluation of the couple on 29 January, however, think that only one among them – most likely the mother, Padmaja – has a chronic psychological illness and is deluded.

Continual proximity to Padmaja during the lockdown may have “induced delusion” in the other parent, Purushottam, The Quint has gathered from a four-member team of Tirupati-based psychiatrists who evaluated the couple.

The delusion could be of “religious nature”, the psychiatrists have assessed. While the mother may have strongly believed in the ‘religious’ ritual they performed, during which they allegedly beat their children to death with dumbbells, the father seems to have “shared the delusion”.

Induced delusional disorder is also a psychological illness.

‘Lockdown Strengthened Shared Delusion’

“It is possible that one of the parents – probably the mother – had a chronic psychological disorder. A delusion caused by this disorder could have been induced in the other parent – the father – because of his proximity to her. As the lockdown brought the family together and isolated them, the delusion seems to have strengthened,” a senior psychiatrist in the team told The Quint.

As the lockdown began in March, Aleikhya and Sai Divya returned home from their educational institutions in Bhopal and Tamil Nadu, respectively. The educational institutions where the parents were teaching were also closed. The four members of the family had limited interactions with the outside world since March 2019 when the lockdown was imposed, the psychiatrist added.

Based on their primary assessment, the psychiatrists have found that the daughters, too, could have shared the delusion. “All the other members of the family, except for the person with the chronic mental illness, could have been normal otherwise. But they all seem to have shared one aspect of the delusion due to continued proximity and affection,” the psychiatrist said.   

The medical team is still investigating whether either of the parents had hereditary history of mental illness.

What Next?

An educated couple from Chittoor district, in Andhra Pradesh, Purushottam was an associated professor in Government Degree College for Women, Madanapalle, and Padmaja was a private school principal. Their daughters Aleikhya was doing her MBA and Sai Divya had finished her Bachelors in Business Administration.

The team, which did the primary evaluation, has referred the patients for a psychometric assessment. The couple will be lodged in an isolated ward in the Government Mental Hospital, Visakhapatnam. This is the only facility in Andhra Pradesh where remanded individuals can be placed under observation.

During her initial interaction with the police, Padmaja is heard as saying in a video, “It is from my body particle only that the coronavirus came.”

After the alleged murder of their daughters, the doctors think that Purushottam developed “a rational fear of the law establishment”. He was the parent who alerted a family friend of the alleged act.

The Chittoor police visited the couple’s Madanapalle home on 25 January after they were tipped off by the friend.

10-Day-Long Evaluation

While the police have placed on record the preliminary assessment of the psychiatric team in Tirupati, the final assessment to be recorded will that be of the Visakhapatnam team.

As long as they are in medical care, the parents will be treated like any other patients with mental illness, the doctors said.

“We do not treat them as murder accused as they need psychiatric care and assessment at the moment.”
The Tirupati psychiatrist

During the evaluation, the psychiatrists in Visakhapatnam will keep the couple under close observation in an isolation ward. The couple’s interaction with the staff will be monitored. Their behaviour will also be noted.

According to doctors, the psychometric evaluation will include Rorschach tests of the patients. Typically, in a Rorschach test, inkblots on paper cards are shown to patients to evaluate their responses. The doctors will also provide “external stimulus” to the patients to read their behaviour.

“The patients will be requested to respond to situations depicted on cards. These readings are important in a case work-up,” the Tirupati psychiatrist said.

The stimulus will include books the family is believed to have read.

They were into reading Osho (Rajneesh) and other spiritual leaders, the police have found. We need to check the influence of the literature.
The Tirupati psychiatrist

While the books they read and the interactions they had with spiritual leaders could be part of criminal investigation, the Tirupati psychiatrists are primarily concerned with the mental illness which may have driven the family to the brink.

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