Digapahandi: A 70-year-old physically challenged woman was strangled to death on the suspicion that she practiced witchcraft at tribal-dominated Chhanabgad village under Digapahandi police limits in Ganjam district, the police said Sunday.
The slain woman was identified as Saibani Mallick. The woman was unmarried and living alone in the village. The murder case was cracked after the police accompanied by a forensic team recovered the decomposed body of Saibani buried in a hill-locked forest about three kilometres from the village.
Preliminary inquiries indicated that the murder took place after some men and women died in quick succession during the last two years. The villagers suspected the deaths to be the fallout of witchcraft as she regularly worshiped some female deities in her house.
They decided to get rid of her and strangled her to death in her house with a bike accelerator wire October 8. Later, they buried the body inside the forest.
The matter came to the fore after a niece of the woman Hemalata Mallick living in nearby Nuabandha Palli village learnt that she had gone missing. She searched for her in vain and lodged a complaint in the Digapahandi police station, October 10.
Police detained three youths but later released them after they failed to find any evidence. Later, the police tracked the cell phones of the villagers and found the mastermind living in a slum at Saliasahi in Bhubaneswar. A police team raided the place and arrested the mastermind Saturday evening. The body was handed over to her family members after completion of post-mortem at MKCG Medical College and Hospital in Berhampur.