MYSTERY still surrounds the death of a high-flying Oxford doctor found dead in his locked bedroom in a ‘prayer like’ position, clutching flowers and pictures.

Oxford Coroner’s Court heard yesterday that empty blister packets of anti-psychotics were found next to Navin Venkatraman, 37, on April 29, 2018, who was wrapped in a blanket given to him by his girlfriend.

But his family suspect there was more to his death than the scene in his Headington home might suggest.

Despite the seemingly religious nature of the position he was found in, Mr Venkatraman’s brother Ashwin said he was an atheist and the pictures were not those of family members that he was particularly close to, or his recently deceased grandmother.

Coroner Darren Salter concurred with police in ruling out any third party involvement or suspicious circumstances in Mr Venkatraman’s death, before recording a narrative verdict.


- Inquests open into six Oxfordshire deaths

- Inquest - Oxford bar manager killed by train 

A total of 105 olanzapine tablets were unaccounted for in Mr Venkatraman’s room, but the family suggested the scene was staged as they struggled to explain the circumstances of his death during a dramatic day in court.

Their solicitor, Sarah Hemmingway, referred to evidence from neighbour Cristina Pelin, who claimed to have heard an argument and loud banging sounds the day before the infectious diseases doctor and Oxford University Clinical Research Fellow was found in Dorchester Close.

Miss Hemmingway also pointed out inconsistencies in the evidence, but Detective Constable Chris Bennett admitted that references to Mr Venkatraman crying in his 'bedroom' rather than the dining room, 'weeks' rather than days before his death may have been police errors.  

Oxford Mail:

The close where the 37-year-old was found. Picture: Google Maps

Coroner Mr Salter repeatedly interrupted Miss Hemmingway’s line of questioning, asking how it was relevant to the case and refusing to allow certain questions. He even warned her that the inquest was not a ‘trial’ and that her hypothesising was ‘getting tiresome now’.

At one stage, housemate Gilles Augusto, who broke down the door to find Mr Venkatraman, said to Miss Hemmingway: “Are you asking me if I murdered my friend?”

Miss Hemmingway suggested another person could have set the scene up, locked the door from the inside and escaped through the open, third-storey bedroom window.

Brazilian-born Mr Augusto said that he first discovered the body after Mr Venkatraman’s girlfriend had become worried and that he had not heard an argument or a loud bang. He pleaded with the family not to ‘destroy another’s man life’ while dealing with their grief.

DC Bennett, who was also questioned, repeatedly stated he had no reason to believe there was any third-party involvement in the death.

Mr Salter's conclusion stated that ‘combined alcohol and olanzapine toxicity, with probable aspiration’ caused the death. His conclusion drew on the findings of a report by Dr Sanjiv Manek, who has been conducting Post Mortems since 1995.

However, Dr Manek did concede that it was difficult to say whether the olanzapine reading from Mr Venkatraman (of 0.3mg per litre) was accurate. The sample was taken more than three days after his death and the drug is notoriously unstable, meaning the level may have been lower or higher than at the time of his death. He had an alcohol reading of 104mg per decilitre – slightly higher than the drink driving limit.

Mr Venkatraman was pronounced dead at around 9.40pm on April 29, though his body was already beginning to decompose, complicating medical investigations.

Mr Salter concluded that the death took place overnight on April 28/29.

Family members said Mr Venkatraman had previously experienced psychotic episodes and seemed ‘tired’ the last day he was seen. The court heard that he had plans to marry his Canadian girlfriend but was not looking forward to returning to Oxford to work at the John Radcliffe, after a spell in Southampton.

His mother Janaki said he had a great future ahead of him and a number of impressive academic achievements to his name.