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Did media abet suicide?

The suicide note left by Professor Alan Stanley mentions ‘depression’ and ‘misinformation campaign spread by media outlets’ as the reasons

On October 20, Delhi Police recovered the decapitated body of Alan Stanley from the railway tracks near Sarai Rohilla Railway Station. Startlingly, his mother Lissy was found dead the same night, suffocated by a cloth stuffed into her mouth. The two belonged to Kottayam, Kerala.

Lissy had recently moved to Delhi to stay with her son. Alan was a guest lecturer at Delhi’s St. Stephen’s College. The police suspect that Stanley helped his mother commit suicide before killing himself.

A note found at Stanley’s apartment lists ‘mental tension’, ‘depression’, and ‘a misinformation campaign by a few media outlets’ as the reasons behind their action.

“In a four-page suicide note signed by both Stanley and his mother, the police in Kerala and a few other people have been accused of harassment. The regional media has also been blamed for sensational reporting on the case,” an officer of the Delhi Police said on the condition of anonymity.

On October 15, Malayalam Manorama had run an article in its Kottayam edition that detailed out the complaints lodged against Alan and his mother by his stepfather’s family after the latter’s suicide. Alan was deeply affected by this.

Lissy’s second husband, John Wilson, was found dead at his residence a few months ago. Wilson’s son from his first marriage approached the Kerala High Court to file a suit against Lissy, accusing her of coercing John into transferring huge amounts of money into her bank account.

A case was registered under sections 305 (abetment of suicide of child or insane person) and 380 (theft in dwelling house, etc.) of the Indian Penal Code against Stanley and his mother.

Speaking on Wilson’s death, TA Anthony, Deputy Superintendent of Police, District Crime Branch, Idukki told PTI, “The police had investigated the case as one of unnatural death. Later, Wilson’s family levelled allegations against Lissy, saying she had driven him to commit suicide.”

He added, “There are allegations that a total amount of Rs 70 lakh was transferred to her account and that she is a nominee to her husband’s deposits of Rs 2.25 crore.”

As per Delhi Police, Alan’s friends said that he was depressed and showed suicidal tendencies. He also told them that he tried to convince his mother to kill herself but she refused.

Marundan Malyali’s editor, Riju M, denied any malice on the part of the media outlet and told Huffington Post, “Marunadan has only reported the news based on the quotes from the petitioners and only against the mother and not against the son Alan and that too only on the basis of the complaint filed. Marunadan has not created this news as a figment of imagination as is criticised but according to the inputs of the crime branch team and the petitioners.”

“Alan and Lissy told me that they cannot stand the media trial and requested me to file a case in the court seeking CBI enquiry into Wilson’s death. He said to me that he would not be able to face his students and wanted to end his life as these allegations were coming out on print and social media,” said TD Thomas, a family friend.

Another friend of the family told Newslaundry, “Due to the sensa-tionalised coverage in Kerala media, local friends and family there, Lissy’s immediate relatives, had been calling them asking them about the matter. It was deeply painful for them to go through the whole incident. Alan didn’t go to college for the past week because he was so ashamed of the news stories. A few friends had been in touch with him regularly till the 15th. After that, whenever we tried to call or message, he was not responding properly.”

What is interesting is the reporter has not quoted a single person in his report, not even the relatives or the children who filed a complaint. The investigating officer has not been contacted either.

“If you read Malayalam newspapers you will find reports without multiple versions. Lack of professionalism is an issue here,” says a Malayalee journalist, and an employee of one of these organisation said.

There were insinuations in the form of a question mark, a short snippet beside the report says ‘Who was the mysterious person who used to call Lissy before her husband’s death?’ clearly suggesting that she might have had an affair. “The Malayalam media have become vultures. They have blood on their hands,” read one of the facebook posts by Allen Stanley’s friend.

Investigating Officer Anthony, confirms the fact that these are mere allegations at present and they have not found any evidence to substantiate it. “We are checking into the treatment history of John. It shows that he was in depression but no specific reason has come out. There is no evidence at present which says Lissy has conspired his death. In fact, the money which was transferred to her account happened when he was alive and the probabilities are that he did it on his own will,” he said.