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Spirit possession accepted as circumstantial and corroborative evidence in Trongsa double murder case

Of the submissions before Trongsa dzongkhag court during the three-year trial of the double murder case in Kuengarabten, Trongsa, two stand out.

While the Trongsa dzongkhag legal officer, Kinzang Dorji, who represented the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to prosecute the case submitted two spirit possessions as evidence to prove Kado, a former security guard, guilty of the murder, Kado questioned the use of sniff dog by police.

The legal officer submitted a written statement signed by nine people, including a teacher and four students of Samcholing School in Trongsa, where the murdered 16-year-old boy studied. The statement claimed they witnessed the school’s cook being possessed by the spirit of the boy where he claimed that Kado murdered him and his grandmother.

The incident happened on August 25, 2015, according to the submission.

The boy and his 60-year-old grandmother were murdered on the midnight of August 5 that year.

“The cook told his house owner that he might die and got inside his room and refused to open the door. When his parents, house owner and neighbours broke into the room, they found him holding on to his head tightly. His right hand also became red,” the written statement stated.

It stated that when they asked him what happened, the possessed cook said that Kado murdered his grandmother when she was peeling areca nut and also murdered him for no reason. “He also kicked me several times.”

It was also submitted that although the cook only studied pre-primary, he spoke fluent English and the spirit also asked for the principal, the deceased’s favourite teacher and his girlfriend several times.

The legal officer also submitted a video footage of another student of Samcholing, who was possessed by the boy’s spirit, which also claimed that Kado was the murderer.

It was stated that the sequence of the narration of the incident by both the cook and the girl student matched with Kado’s confession to police.

Kinzang Dorji submitted before the court that the spirit possessions should also be accepted as evidence since it is believed and accepted in the culture. “The repeated spirit possessions indicate Kado murdered the victims.”

The court ruled that since the country’s culture and tradition believe in spirit possession, it could accept it as circumstantial and corroborative evidence in accordance with the Evidence Act.

Kado, 46, from Getana in Chukha, claimed he was innocent before the court.

Of the many rebuttals he submitted, including alleged duress for his confession, he submitted that police, on August 7, 2015, brought a sniffer dog to Trongsa and the dog identified a security guard of a company at Mangdechu project as the suspect and not him.

Kado submitted that police detained the security guard for five days and released him. “What is the use of the dog,” he submitted.

Police and the prosecutor justified that the dog could not identify him, as Kado destroyed the evidence by washing the clothes he wore during the murder.

Besides the two life imprisonments Kado received for the murder and nine years for armed burglary, he was given a month imprisonment for destroying evidence and obstructing or hindering prosecution.

Kado also submitted that the police officer-in-command consulted an astrologer across the border and the OC showed him a photo of the non-Bhutanese who was suspected of committing the crime.

The legal officer, however, stated the defendant’s submission was not related to the fact in issue and it was not necessary to respond to the claim.

Meanwhile, although this could be the first case where spirit possession is submitted as evidence, it is not the first incident.

Dr Chencho Dorji and Joseph D. Calabrese mention about spirit possessions in their paper, ‘Traditional and modern understandings of mental illness in Bhutan: Preserving the Benefits of each to support Gross National Happiness’, where a catatonic boy’s father believes he was possessed by a spirit when he was brought for psychiatric treatment.

The paper also mentions a middle-aged lady, who was brought to a psychiatric ward, talking in an altered voice that she worked hard in a hotel but was mistreated. “The patient ate lots of food but never went to the toilet and the family interpreted the behaviour as a hungry ghost.”

Tashi Dema

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