Suchana Seth, who heads The Mindful AI Lab in India's tech hub of Bengaluru, was detained in the Chitradurga district of south-Indian state of Karnataka when she was returning from the neighbouring state of Goa by taxi on Monday, January 8. She was arrested after the her son's body was found in her luggage, the police said. The accused is reported to have strangled her son, allegedly upset by a court order granting her estranged husband Venkat Raman visiting rights during their ongoing divorce battle. Following her arrest on Tuesday, a local court remanded Suchana to six days in police custody.
Here is what we know about Suchana Seth and the incident:
Tech firm CEO, topper of ‘Brilliant Women in AI Ethics’
The 39-year-old Suchana Seth hails from West Bengal and has been living in Bengaluru. Her LinkedIn profile states she is the CEO of Mindful AI Lab, a technical consultancy, and was among the top '100 Brilliant Women in AI Ethics for 2021'. The company's website describes its services as providing customized AI ethics advisory services, auditing AI systems and data practices, and co-creating responsible AI roadmaps for organisations at all stages of data maturity.
However, police discovered that the listed address for Seth's company is not a dedicated office space, but rather a co-working space. "Goa police visited the firm's office space and collected information," a Bengaluru police official told The Indian Express.
Seth also holds a director position at Saatvik Machine Intelligence Technologies Private Limited, a machine intelligence-based firm registered in September 2020 and currently active.
‘AI ethics expert and a data scientist’: Seth, an AI ethics expert and data scientist with over 12 years of experience mentoring data science teams and scaling machine learning solutions at startups, also excels in research. The alumni page of the Cyberspace Research Centre, last updated in March 2020, describes Seth as an AI ethics expert and data scientist who "has built scalable data science solutions for startups and industry research labs, and holds patents in text mining and natural language processing."
Seth believes in the power of data to drive positive change. She is also passionate about closing the gender gap in data science. Prior to March 2020, Suchana served as a Mozilla Open Web Fellow at Data & Society.
What we know about the murder
Police say the murder of her four-year-old son took place at a service apartment in Goa. Seth, accompanied by her son, checked into the apartment on January 6 and stayed there until January 8 before leaving for Bengaluru in a taxi. After checking out, the accused had come out with a big suitcase to head for Bengaluru. As she was boarding the taxi, the hotel staff who had seen her son, enquired about the child. The accused informed the staff that he had been sent to her relative’s place and left the hotel. However, the hotel staff got suspicious after housekeeping staff found blood stains in her room and called the police.
How Seth was arrested
After getting the tipoff from the hotel, the Goa Police got the contact number of the taxi driver and asked him to stop as soon as he spotted a police station on the National Highway.
Accordingly, the taxi driver stopped the vehicle near Imangala Police Station, in Karnataka. The Goa Police had briefed their Karnataka counterparts about the development. The Karnataka Police found the body of the child in the trunk of the car inside the suitcase.
The body was shifted to the mortuary and the accused was taken into custody, police sources said.
Police sources also stated that initially Suchana maintained that her son was with a friend and gave cops his address as well. The Goa cops had found that the address was fake.
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Motive behind the murder
Seth's husband, Venkat Raman, hails from Kerala and works in Indonesia, according to many reports. The couple reportedly married in 2010 and their son was born in 2019. She had filed for divorce in 2020 on the grounds of harassment. The court ordered Raman to stay away from his wife and child.
A Goan police official, SP Valsan, told reporters that the Suchana expressed unhappiness with a recent court order granting Venkat Raman visitation rights with their son on Sundays.
Sources also said that Venkat Raman, now living in Jakarta, arrived in Bengaluru to meet his son on Sunday, January 7, as per the court order. He had brought toys and new clothes for the child. Under pressure and motivated by the desire to prevent Venkat Raman from seeing the boy, Seth allegedly planned a trip to Goa with her son. Venkat Raman made several phone calls and video calls to her, but they remained unanswered. Unaware of their location, Raman left for Indonesia.
How did Seth kill her child?
According to police sources, the accused initially denied any involvement in the crime during interrogation, claiming she found the child already dead upon waking up. After initially denying involvement, Seth admitted to attempting to render her son unconscious by pressing the pillow on his face and the child was suffocated to death. Her aim was to stop the boy from talking to his father over video call.
Police discovered empty cough syrup bottles in her hotel room, raising suspicions that she may have administered a heavy dose to the child before smothering him with a pillow. "We're investigating the possibility of the woman giving the child a heavy cough syrup dose before his death," an official stated, adding that the circumstances suggest a pre-planned murder.
Later, an autopsy revealed the cause of death of death as strangulation, likely using a cloth or pillow, excluding manual strangulation. Notably, the absence of rigor mortis indicated the child had been deceased for over 36 hours, hindering an exact time of death determination.
Note written in eyeliner found
Investigators have recovered a handwritten note from Seth's belongings, which could shed light on the case. According to the report, a handwritten note, penned in eyeliner, raising concerns about alleged pressure tactics. The note reportedly detailed accusations of coercion from both the court and her ex-husband, claiming, "Court and my (estranged) husband pressurising me to give custody of my son," and further expressing fears about the child's safety.
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Suchana told police that she had attempted self-harm after the incident. She tried to cut her left wrist with a sharp object, but the attempt was unsuccessful. "The blood stains that were found on a towel in the service apartment were due to the slashing of her wrist," a police officer said. Overcome with fear and confusion, she concealed the body in a suitcase and checked out of the hotel.
The investigation in Goa has taken a twist when police suspecting that accused Suchana Seth had been planning the crime for a long time and was fabricating a suicide attempt story. Sources revealed that Seth posted a picture of her son on social media on October 10, 2023, with the hashtag "what will happen to him?" This post has sparked suspicions about pre-planned murder by the accused mother.
Police have also gathered information that accused Suchana Seth was arrogant and quarrelsome within her residential complex in Bengaluru.
Last rites of the 4-year-old
Venkat Raman had to return to India from Jakarta on Tuesday evening upon learning about his child's murder, police said. He gave consent to the local authorities to conduct a post-mortem on his son's body, they said. The family of the four-year-old, Chinmay conducted last rites at the Harishchandra Ghat, in Bangalore on Wednesday, January 10.
Viral videos showed the funeral scenes when Venkat Raman carried the body of his child in his arms and walked towards the graveyard.