Why did 31 people suddenly die in a Pakistan village? A horrible mystery solved

Laddu, a popular South Asian sweet, packed for a wedding [Wikipedia]

In India and Pakistan, the variety of traditional sweets prepared for special occasions seems infinite. One popular treat is laddu (or ladoo), sweet little sugary carb balls. They're basically cookies, and they're munched at big celebrations--weddings, births, and the like.

In Pakistan's Punjab province in mid-April, 2016, Umar Hayat's family was celebrating the birth of a child. The Pakistan newspaper Dawn reported that Mr. Hayat invited “scores of relatives” over to his mud hut, and served about 11 pounds of laddu purchased from the nearby Tariq Hotel and Sweet Shop. Everyone, kids and adults, gobbled the sweets down. Then they began vomiting.

For 31 of these party-goers, it was the last thing they ate in their lifetime.

Umar Hayat grieves after the mass poisoning event that killed 31 members of his extended family.

Umar Hayat grieves after the mass poisoning event that killed 31 members of his extended family.

From The Washington Post (via The Independent:)

But as they did, they started vomiting, one after the other, in quick succession. They were rushed to the local hospital, Dawn reported, where they only became sicker. Then, one by one, they started dying. By Thursday of that week, 12 members of Hayat’s family were dead, among them eight sons, a daughter and three grandchildren.

At the same time, several dozen others who had purchased sweets from the same Tariq Hotel and Sweet Shop, also took horribly ill and were rushed to the hospital. By this week, 19 more who had consumed the sweets were dead.

The display case at Tariq Hotel and Sweet Shop, from which the poisoned laddu were sold. Police seized the cabinet and its contents for analysis. [Dawn]

The display case at Tariq Hotel and Sweet Shop, from which the poisoned laddu were sold. Police seized the cabinet and its contents for analysis. [Dawn]

A police officer in the area suggested that a worker at Tariq Hotel and Sweet Shop may have “inadvertently” added pesticide to the laddus mix.

“There was a pesticide shop close by which was being renovated, and the owner had left his pesticides at the bakery for safe keeping,” Gulf News reports the officer said.

Turns out it wasn't inadvertent at all. Someone deliberately poisoned the sweets.

Dawn and other news outlets reported last week that the mystery of the deadly sweets has been solved.

The deadly sweets, partially consumed. [samaa.tv]

The deadly sweets, partially consumed. [samaa.tv]

After interrogating dozens of people, authorities say they found out who was responsible for the mass poisoning: 18-year-old Khalid Mahmood, the younger brother of the sweet shop owner.

Mr. Mahmood confessed to spiking the laddu with a pesticide because he wanted “to teach [his brother] a lesson,” he is said to have told police, adding that his older brother "tortured him."

From Dawn:

Fatehpur police arrested Tariq and Khalid with their 13-year-old servant Hamid. Forensic lab report revealed that blood sample of the victims contained chlorfenapyr (pesticide).

Various media reports in Pakistan said Khalid confessed to lacing the laddus with the poison Chlorfenapyr. Abb Takk TV reported that police recovered an empty bottle of the highly toxic pesticide, stashed away in a sunflower field.

There's a Wikipedia entry for the tragedy here. Snip:

A pesticide shop, close by the bakery where the sweets were bought, was being renovated, and the owner had left his products at the bakery for safekeeping. Mahmood may have used a small packet in the sweet mixture. A man bought 5kg of laddu for the celebration of a newborn on 17 April. At least 50 people consumed the sweets and ten of them died the same day. On 25 April, the death toll rose to 23 with 52 people still being treated at various hospitals. On 1 May the death toll rose to 33 with 13 people in hospital.The baby lost his father, six of his uncles and one aunt.

Related coverage:

"A village haunted by mass poisoning" [Dawn]
26 killed after eating poison sweets in Pakistan, official says” [CNN]