Skip to main content

Indian headmistress tied to poisoned lunches arrested

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN
updated 10:22 PM EDT, Wed July 24, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "Every aspect of the case will be investigated," Bihar's chief minister says
  • Police say headmistress Meena Kumari was taken into custody on her way to a court
  • Authorities say her school served toxic lunches, killing 23 students
  • Police also want to question her husband in connection with the case

New Delhi (CNN) -- The headmistress of the Indian school that authorities say served toxic lunches, killing 23 students, was arrested Wednesday, police said.

Meena Kumari, 36, was taken into custody on her way to a court where she had gone to surrender herself, police Superintendent Sujeet Kumar told CNN. She will be questioned Wednesday and taken before the court Thursday, he said.

Authorities had been working to track down Kumari, who had been at large since the July 16 incident.

The whereabouts of her husband, who is not named as an accused person in the case, are still not known, Kumar added. Police want to question him in connection with the case.

Pesticides have been found in the food and oil used in the school lunch that sickened 25 others in northern India's Bihar state, police said.

A woman rests with her child at a ward housing the poisoned schoolchildren at the Patna Medical College and Hospital, in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, Wednesday, July 17. At least 22 schoolchildren died in northeastern India after eating free school lunches that contained an insecticide commonly used in agriculture. Officials are investigating whether the poisoning was accidental or deliberate. A woman rests with her child at a ward housing the poisoned schoolchildren at the Patna Medical College and Hospital, in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, Wednesday, July 17. At least 22 schoolchildren died in northeastern India after eating free school lunches that contained an insecticide commonly used in agriculture. Officials are investigating whether the poisoning was accidental or deliberate.
Deadly school lunch in India
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
Deadly school lunch in India Deadly school lunch in India
Indian headmistress found and arrested
Inside an Indian school kitchen
Free lunches halted at Indian schools

Forensic scientists found monocrotophos, an organophosphorus compound used as an insecticide, "in the samples of oil from the container, food remains on the platter and mixture of rice with vegetables in an aluminum utensil," Assistant Director General Ravinder Kumar told reporters in Patna.

Monocrotophos, which is used for agricultural purposes, is toxic to humans.

Bihar's chief minister, Nitish Kumar, vowed that police would investigate the poisoning incident from all possible angles.

"It does not appear to be mere coincidence or negligence," he told reporters after Kumari's arrest. "Police investigation will reveal everything."

Confusion, grief and despair in India's school poisoning village

The chief minister said forensic tests showed that pesticide levels in the food concerned were too high.

"The main accused (principal Kumari) is now under arrest, and every aspect of the case will be investigated," he said.

The child survivors of the incident were hospitalized in stable condition, and Nitish Kumar said he had advised that they be kept under medical care longer.

A cook, Manju Devi, was also hospitalized after eating the food she prepared, doctors said.

Mom anguishes over child poisoned by lunch

Devi told police that the headmistress did not heed her warning that the mustard oil used to prepare lunch looked and smelled bad. Instead, the headmistress insisted she continue preparing the meal, officials said.

Authorities previously said police would ensure the headmistress' safety when she was found.

The children's deaths prompted angry demonstrations from residents.

In acts of protest, parents of at least three victims have buried their children near the government-run school -- one right in front of the building, according to officials.

India's school meal program: Ambitious, but far from perfect

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Tethered to an IV drip, 71-year-old Shin Young Ja lies under a thin fleece blanket, nursing a broken back and wracked with survivor's guilt.
updated 7:23 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Family members of the missing passengers are pinning slim hopes on floundering air pockets.
updated 12:14 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
An Iranian mother slaps and then forgives her 17-year old son's murderer in dramatic scenes at the gallows.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
An "extraordinary" video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years.
updated 8:30 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Explore each side's case, reconstructed from Pistorius' court affidavit and the prosecution's case during last year's bail hearing.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Mentions of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests or political reform are still censored in China.
updated 5:34 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
The Hadza are one of the last communities of hunter-gatherers in the world -- but losing their land.
updated 9:22 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
In choosing to change a traditional practice, Francis is being as radical as Jesus was in his own time.
updated 7:13 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Too weak. Can't handle pressure. Unattractive to sponsors. Susie Wolff has heard it all.
updated 11:56 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
updated 8:30 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
It's like finding a needle in a universe-wide haystack. Researchers have located a planet roughly the size of Earth that could be habitable.
updated 5:40 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Dubai, long champion of all things biggest, longest and most expensive, will soon have some competition from a neighboring country.
ADVERTISEMENT