New Delhi (CNN)Eleven members of a family in India's capital Delhi were found dead in their house Sunday, 10 of them hanging from an iron grill on the ceiling, in an incident police say may be related to occult practices.
Death of 11 Indian family members linked to occult rites
Most of the bodies had their feet and hands bound, a cloth covered the eyes and their mouths were gagged with tape, senior North Delhi police officer Vinit Kumar told CNN.
The oldest member of the family, Narayan Devi, 77, was found dead on the floor. She had a noose around her neck and the police are investigating the cause for her death.
Seven of the dead were females and two teenage boys were amongst the victims.
Police are treating the case as murder, said Kumar.
"During search of the house, certain hand written notes have been found which point towards observance of some definite spiritual/mystical practices by the whole family," police said in a statement.
"Coincidentally, these notes have strong similarity with the manner in which the mouths, eyes, etc, of the deceased were tied and taped," the statement said.
The statement also said that the house had not been ransacked and that no valuables were found to be missing.
The bodies were discovered early Sunday morning, said Kumar.
Two of the the family members found dead, sons Bhavnesh and Lalit, ran a grocery store located on the ground floor of the family home, said Kumar.
The pair would open the grocery store at 6 a.m. But on Sunday, the shop didn't open as usual, leading several customers to enter into the home to investigate, whereupon they found the bodies, he added.
On Monday, as news of the death began to filter through the area's tight-knit local community, relatives and neighbors began to gather in the narrow alleyway outside of the family's home.
Geeta Thukral, 58, a first cousin of the two brothers, told CNN that one of the younger victims had only recently announced her engagement.
"I don't know what happened. I really don't," said Thukral.
"My niece, Priyanka, had just got engaged on June 17. I had met them two days ago. My niece had called me and asked me to help her with wedding arrangements. This would have been the first wedding in their family. I have married off two daughters. So, she asked me to help her out with what clothes to buy and from where," she said, wiping away tears.
Other neighbors expressed bewilderment at reports linking the death with occult practices.
"They couldn't have committed suicide or practiced the occult. They were religious people, but so are we. They had nothing to do with these occult practices. That is all nonsense. During festivals, they used to participate fully," said Sarita Sharma, 52, a neighbor.
Vikram Chhabra, 40, who runs a nearby pharmacy, described the family "as very decent and sophisticated."
"They were great people. What happened is a mystery. One moment we think it was murder and then immediately the next moment we think it was suicide. At my shop, I get all kinds of people. Their family was so good. He (one of the brothers, Lalit) never argued over money and was courteous," Chhabra told CNN.
The police are due to release the bodies later today, with the family's funeral scheduled for 5 p.m.