Truth serums and “brain fingerprinting” used in Indian serial killer case

A serial killing case in India has caused quite a stir in recent weeks, with suspicions that the murders are linked to human organ trafficking operations and allegations of police incompetence in investigating the disappearances of the children. The Observer (UK, 7 Jan) explains:

Forty or more people, ranging from a boy aged 10 months to a 32-year-old mother of three, may have fallen victim to two of India’s most prolific serial killers as the authorities revealed their suspicion that murders may have been carried out to harvest body parts such as kidneys, livers and kneecaps.

[...] Yesterday, as police fought to control further riots by angry locals, the leader of India’s ruling coalition, Sonia Gandhi, made a surprise visit to the scene of the crime and harshly criticised the local police handling of the investigation. Responsibility for it has now been handed over to India’s top federal investigating agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation.

In the last week, six police officers have been suspended after it emerged that Pandher, the prime suspect in the case, was arrested 13 months ago following a series of complaints from local residents in the slum bordering his house who suspected his involvement in the disappearance of their children. But the suspect walked out of the police station the same night.

Two men have been arrested in the case, and CNN-IBN News (5 Jan) explains what lies in store:

The Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, is currently conducting a narco-analysis test on the two accused in the Nithari serial killings case – Moninder Singh Pandher and Surinder.

[...] An anesthetist, a forensic expert and two psychologists. All of them are being given a comprehensive briefing by the Noida Police as to the questions that need to be posed to the accused once the truth serum has been administered.

[...] Assistant Director, FSL, Gandhinagar, V H Patel, “We inject drugs into a person, which makes his conscious mind relax. It is under the influence of these drugs that a person begins to speak out the things that he would normally try to hide.”

The chemical injected during the test is sodium pentathol, which is popularly known as the truth serum, for obvious reasons. [...] The effect of the drug makes the person semi conscious, restricting their ability to manipulate answers or use their imagination.

In addition to the narco-analysis test, the Nithari accused will have to undergo a Brain Finger Printing Test and a Lie Detection or Polygraph Test.

[...] Says an FSL official, Namrata Khopkar, “Once the sensors are placed, and we show pictures to the accused and make them hear things. The way one’s brain reacts to these sounds can establish a lot of things.”

Both the use of sodium pentathol and “brain fingerprinting” techniques are highly controversial. Previous Deception Blog posts on ‘truth serums’ can be found here, and previous coverage of the use of brain scans by the Indian police can be found here and here.

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