Police in Dubai have stated that they closed the case into the death of fifty four year old Bollywood star Sridevi Kapoor after handing over her body to relatives. She had been in the United Arab Emirates to attend the wedding of her nephew. Sridevi died on February 24, “due to accidental drowning following loss [...]

Sunday Times 2

Bath-related deaths: Accident or murder


Police in Dubai have stated that they closed the case into the death of fifty four year old Bollywood star Sridevi Kapoor after handing over her body to relatives. She had been in the United Arab Emirates to attend the wedding of her nephew. Sridevi died on February 24, “due to accidental drowning following loss of consciousness”, police said.

Actress Sridevi Kapoor

It had earlier been reported that Sridevi, whose body was found in a hotel bathtub, died of cardiac arrest. Her body was later flown to India for funeral on Wednesday.Known simply as Sridevi, who appeared in nearly 300 films over five decades, she was considered one of the very few Indian female superstars capable of huge box-office success without the support of a male hero. In 2013, the Indian government awarded her the Padma Shri – the country’s fourth-highest civilian honour.

Baths are considered a mode of relaxation by many people across the world. It is unfortunate that many cases of sudden deaths during bathing have been reported. In most cases, death occurs in a bathtub, and victims are found unresponsive with their faces immersed or completely submerged under water. These deaths are a critical social issue, in some countries especially in Japan, where thousands of sudden bath-related deaths occur annually nationwide.

Most bath-related deaths occur among individuals older than 60 years, and the mortality rates tend to increase with age in both sexes. There is an evident seasonal difference in occurrence dates, with the deaths occurring seven times more frequently in winter than in summer. Bath-related deaths can be attributed to various causes, including natural death (due to disease), accidental drowning, and suicidal death. In general, most of the cases are judged as natural deaths or accidental drowning, and suicidal or homicidal cases are rare.

Studies on past medical histories of bath-related victims have shown that ‘hypertension’ or high blood pressure was the most common medical complaint among the victims. Other diseases identified are diabetes, cancer, coronary heart disease, strokes, dementia, epilepsy and parkinsonism. Intake of alcohol and psychotropic drugs may induce drowsiness, resulting in drowning in a bathtub. Traumatic lesions including intracranial injuries may also affect the consciousness level during bathing, although the number of such cases is quite small.

Last year a Texas teenager died while using her cellphone in a bathtub. Madison Coe, 14, was electrocuted taking a bath at her father’s home. The accident was caused either when she plugged in her phone while in the bathtub or grabbed the phone as it was being charged.

Several measures can be taken to prevent bath-related deaths. The public should be aware that bathing in a bathtub is potentially hazardous, especially among elderly persons. Family members should take care of elderly people when bathing. Special attention should be paid to people with circulatory diseases and epilepsy. Ill or inebriated people should not bathe without supervision. To prevent fainting due to lowering of blood pressure, it is recommended that elderly people should stand up slowly when they get out of bathtubs.

Studies have indicated that preventive strategies for reducing alcohol-related deaths in bathtubs should target male habitual drinkers (middle-aged to seniors), and especially people who have been diagnosed with alcohol-related diseases. The water temperature and duration of immersion should be monitored. The body temperature of elderly people remained at 38°C or lower when they are immersed in 41°C water for 10 minutes. Therefore, it is recommended that the temperature of the water used for bathing should be below 41°C and the immersion time should be less than 10 minutes.

Statistics show that an American drowns nearly every day in a bathtub, hot tub or spa, and the deaths occur disproportionately in western states, where victims often drink or take drugs while soaking in hot water. Some rural areas, including New Mexico and Wyoming, report these unusual drownings at three times the national average, according to a study of federal mortality records from 1999 to 2003.

This study found 1,676 Americans were reported to have drowned in a tub during this five-year period, an average of 335 a year. Infants, very young children and the elderly are at risk, but more than half of all tub deaths are among able-bodied people between the ages of five and 64.

“You get into a hot tub to relax and you drink to relax. When you put those two things together, you get more than you bargain for,” said Jonathan Howland, an epidemiologist at Boston University. “The heat leads to dilation of the blood vessels, along with the alcohol. People are basically having a drop of blood pressure and having the equivalent of a faint,” Howland said.

Tony Gomez, manager of the Injury and Violence Prevention Division at the Seattle Public Health Department, said in some years as many as 70 percent of all adult drownings in tubs and pools investigated by his department involved consumption of alcohol. Some experts warn there could be darker explanations for many tub deaths.

Andrea Zaferes, vice president of Lifeguard Systems Inc. and a homicidal drowning investigation instructor, said police miss many homicides in which water is used as a weapon. “Our estimation is that about 20 percent of the drownings are homicides!” Zaferes said.

On May 3, 1957, Kenneth Barlow discovered his 30-year-old wife unconscious in the bath at about 11.20 pm. The bath was empty when the police arrived. The post-mortem examination and the findings at the scene where the body was found suggested that prior to her death the woman was unconscious. The absence of common poisons in the tissues of the body and in the urine, the presence of vomited food on the bedclothes and in the bath, the sweat-soaked pyjamas, and the grossly dilated pupils suggested that the woman was hypoglycaemic (had low blood sugar).

The subsequent finding of injection marks on her buttocks led to a search for insulin in the underlying tissues. A large amount of insulin was recovered (84 units), and this is thought to represent about a third of the amount present at the time of her death and an unknown lesser fraction of the amount which was injected. The woman’s husband, a trained male nurse, was accused and convicted of his wife’s murder.

This is the first case of murder in a bathtub with insulin.
George Joseph Smith was an English serial killer and bigamist. In 1915, he was accused of killing three women, the case becoming known as the “Brides in the Bath Murders”. As well as being widely reported in the media, the case was significant in the history of forensic pathology and detection. It was also one of the first cases in which similarities between connected crimes was used to prove deliberation, a technique used in subsequent prosecutions.

George Smith used to meet wealthy women, marry them within a few weeks, insure their lives and then drown them in the bath.
He was eventually arrested and ultimately hanged for his crimes. In total he had eight wives!
It took the jury about 20 minutes on July 1, 1915 to find him guilty and he was sentenced to death andhanged in Maidstone Prison on August 13, 1915. He protested his innocence to the end taking with him the secret of how he killed three innocent women.
So, bathtub deaths should be properly investigated to detect crime. Sridevi’s death may still create doubts as to the cause and circumstances.

Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.