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Calcutta: Three members of a family that had partied close to midnight were found stabbed and bludgeoned to death early Saturday morning at their Palm Avenue flat, with police virtually ruling out an outsider role.
Officers said a fourth member, Neil Fonseca, 49, who is in hospital with a deep gash in his throat, has given a written statement saying he had attacked his wife Jessica, 43, in self-defence after she murdered their twin teenage sons. He then apparently attempted suicide.
All four had been sleeping in the same bedroom in their rented third-floor apartment, opposite former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s home, after returning a little past midnight from “bar night” at Dalhousie Institute, a club in Ballygunge.
Neil, an interior decorator who had run into debt, and Jessica had celebrated their 22nd wedding anniversary on Thursday but their marriage was under strain, friends said.
Officers said Neil had told them he had gone to the bathroom in the small hours and returned to see Jessica hitting one of their sons with a heavy object as the other lay still. Joshua and Darren were 16.
“Neil claimed he couldn’t control himself and attacked his wife with a knife. His wife too retaliated with a sharp blade,” an officer from Karaya police station said.
“In the scuffle, Neil claimed, Jessica fell and banged her head against a part of the bed and died. A traumatised Neil then attempted suicide with a knife and shaving blades.”
Officers are waiting for forensic and post-mortem reports. “We have sent a query to Neil’s nursing home whether his injury is self-inflicted,” city detective chief Debasish Boral said.
The police are talking to Neil’s daughter Samantha, 21, who studies at a Pennsylvania college and is home on vacation, and Jessica’s sister Shabana Anwar, 31, who had spent the night with the Fonsecas.
Samantha had been in one bedroom with Neil’s mother Shirley, 79, while Shabana was in another. None apparently had had any whiff of the tragedy until the driver of one of Neil’s clients rang the doorbell around 8am.
When the main bedroom remained shut despite the three women’s knocks, they called Karaya police, who arrived around 8.45.
By then Neil had opened the door. The cops found him with a neck wound and bloodstains on his shirt, struggling to breathe or speak.
On the bed his sons and wife lay dead, covered with a quilt. While the brothers had had their skulls smashed from the left, Jessica had a deep neck wound. She had been hit on the top of her head too.
The air-conditioner was still whirring. There wasn’t much blood on the floor but the pillows were soaked red. A TV remote lay on the headrest of the king-sized bed, made wider by adding a cot to one side.
“We have found three kitchen knives and a 25-pound dumbbell, all of them bloodstained,” Boral said.
Neil, whom the police had rushed to a private nursing home in Broad Street, wrote his statement from his bed. Doctors said he had undergone throat surgery this evening and was doing fine.
A teacher at Samantha’s old school remembers Neil as a “smart, suave guy”. Friends spoke of a “very nice family guy” who seldom had more than one drink in the evening.
But friends said Neil’s business, which he ran from its Hungerford Street office, was going through a lean patch and that creditors visited the Fonseca flat frequently.
Neil, once a regular at the races, owned two racehorses but was barred from the Royal Calcutta Turf Club a few years ago.
“His horse Sartaj was caught in a doping scandal, and he had defaulted on the club account too,” said a turf veteran. “One of Neil’s associates was behind the drugging but as the owner, Neil too was punished.”
Officers said Neil had told them his wife regularly fought with him over a relationship he had had three years ago.
But socially, the family looked picture perfect. On Friday night, the sons were playing football while the parents were in the bar with friends. Both Neil and Jessica had danced and Jessica had even taken the mike and sung.
A friend who was present said the couple had, however, had a tiff.
After their marriage, Neil and Jessica used to live on the ground floor of her father Ahmed Anwar’s home in Karaya Road before moving to Palm Avenue seven years ago.