An occultist, who goes by the name of Geeta Maa, was reportedly questioned by the Delhi Police on Friday in connection with the recent mysterious deaths of 11 members of a family in Burari area of Delhi.

According to media reports, Geeta is the daughter of the contractor who had built the home where the family of Narayan Devi and her family lived.

The elderly Narayan Devi was among the 11 members of the Bhatia family found dead on the morning of 1 July.

While all the circumstantial evidence point to mass suicide by the family, the police are investigating all angles to find out if the family had been under anyone’s influence. The police have not yet established any link between Geeta Maa and the family.

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The Director of the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS), Nimesh Desai, on Friday said two theories floating surrounding the deaths of 11 members of a family in Burari            — one of mass suicide due to spiritual belief and another of shared psychotic disorder — should be seen in conjunction and in their combined effect rather than in isolation.

With the Delhi Police deciding to conduct psychological autopsy of 11 members of Bhatia family, Desai said it would be a difficult exercise as no family member living in that house was alive.

In psychological autopsy, there is a reconstruction of the psychological state of the deceased just before or in the final moments of death based on interviews of the victims’ kin, narratives of the social and occupational contacts and other records.

It may extend backward to a few weeks or months.

“But here the difficulty is that it is not just about one individual, there are 11 members and no family member living in that house is alive so the reconstruction will be limited. However, there are plenty of written records, an analysis of which will confirm the impressions the police already seem to have made,” Desai said.

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With two theories floating around, Desai said he believed this incident was a combined effect of both.

A psychological autopsy attempts to explain why a person has taken his life by analysing medical records, interviewing friends and family and conducting research into his state of mind prior to death, say experts.

The initial autopsy report had said all 11 members had died of hanging and there were no signs of struggle or scuffle.

The bodies of 10 of the 11 members were found hanging from an iron-mesh in the ceiling on Sunday, while the body of 77-year-old Narayan Devi, the head of the family, was lying on the floor in another room of the house.

Her daughter Pratibha (57) and her two sons Bhavnesh (50) and Lalit (45) were among the deceased.

Bhavnesh’s wife Savita (48) and their three children – Maneka (23), Neetu (25), and Dhirendra (15) were also found dead.

The others who were found hanging were Lalit’s wife Tina (42), their 15-year-old son Dushyant and Pratibha’s daughter Priyanka, who was engaged last month and was supposed to get married by year-end.

(With PTI inputs)