A student who was pronounced dead in hospital may actually have been alive at the time and only later burned to death on a funeral pyre, Indian police say.
The family of Rachna Sisodia, 21, have alleged her partner, Devesh Chaudhary, 23, raped and murdered her.
She was reportedly admitted to Sharda University Hospital in Noida, Uttar Pradesh on 23 February with a respiratory condition, causing feverish symptoms and abdominal pain.
Doctors announced her death shortly before midnight on 25 February, the Times of India reported.
Ms Sisodia’s body was released to her husband, who carried out a traditional cremation with a small group of his own friends and family.
But when Ms Sisodia’s family became aware of this, they became suspicious and contacted the police, who interrupted the cremation and pulled the body from the pyre.
The corpse – which was more than 70 per cent burned – was turned over to forensic investigators, who found ash in the lungs and windpipe and concluded she wasn't dead as her body was being cremated.
“This happens when someone is burnt alive,” an official told the Hindustan Times.
“The particles go inside with the breath. If a person is dead, such particles cannot reach the lungs and the windpipe. So, the doctors concluded that the woman was burnt alive on the pyre.”
Such was the condition of the body that police couldn’t be certain it even belonged to Ms Sisodia, but a sample of bone was sent for analysis.
Ms Sisodia’s uncle has filed a complaint with the police, accusing Mr Chaudhary of deliberately killing her.
Police have launched a search for him, but he remains in hiding, though he has spoken to local media by phone.
Mr Chaudhary told the Times: "Rachna had fallen ill and I tried my best to provide better medical treatment. The Greater Noida Hospital had declared her dead upon which we performed cremation."
He has maintained Ms Sisodia’s family are trying to frame him.
Meanwhile, the hospital is standing by its original verdict.
A spokesman said: "We conducted a CPR at 11pm. The blood pressure and pulse were non-functional. We did not receive any symptom of life in the body. We conducted all required medical tests before declaring her clinically dead at 11.45pm.
“The patient was brought in extremely critical condition and our doctors tried their best to save her. We stick to our stand that the patient had died due to lung infection on Sunday night.”