LAHORE  - Eight members of a middle-class family, including children and women, were found murdered in cold blood in a rented apartment in the E-Block Johar Town neighbourhood on Tuesday afternoon.

The family members, including three brothers who were living together, two of their wives, and three children, were found killed with a blunt weapons, Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Chaudhry Shafique Ahmed told reporters outside the house after visiting the crime scene. Their faces were mutilated beyond recognition. A cancer patient is also among those found murdered inside a five-Marla double-storey house (E-I Block) located in the limits of Johar Town police. “We think the incident took place late on Monday night or in the wee hours of Tuesday,” said the Lahore CCPO.

Investigators termed the gruesome incident as premeditated. The motive behind the killings is yet to be ascertained. The bodies were removed to Jinnah Hospital’s mortuary for the autopsy. “Some white powder (chemical) was also lying beside each body and we have collected evidences for forensic tests,” the Lahore police chief disclosed to the reporters.

The forensic experts were yet to ascertain the nature of the chemical recovered from the crime scene. It was also not clear yet whether the chemical was sprinkled on the victims to decompose the bodies or the white stuff was used to make them unconscious. “Only the autopsy will find the cause of deaths and test of the chemical would help the investigators,” a police official said.

A friend of the victims, who visited the house to hand over wedding cards to the ill-fated family, disclosed the happening to the police when he noticed that nobody came out to open the door as he continued knocking at it for a considerable time.

According to an investigator, the visitor entered the house by scaling the next-door neighbour’s boundary wall and made hue and cry as he witnessed the dead bodies lying in a pool of blood in separate bedrooms. The police have also seized mobile phones of the deceased to check the calls’ record.

The murders appeared to have been carried out brutally, CCPO Shafiq said, adding, two separate police teams had been constituted to trace the killers. The police chief, however, ruled out the possibility of killings during a robbery attempt and hinted that some sort of “revenge” might have been a factor.

A relative of the deceased suspected the involvement of a cancer patient in the horrific incident, stating that Nazir had been at odds with his brothers. Majid Iqbal, a brother of the deceased, told reporters that the possible involvement of his brother Nazir could not be ruled out in the tragic incident. “There is a possibility that Nazir committed suicide after killing the whole family since there was no torture mark on his body,” said Majid.

The deceased brothers were identified as Shahid Iqbal, 45, a national-highway contractor, Zahid Iqbal, 48, a professor at a private university in Lahore, and Nazir Iqbal, a 28-year-old chemical engineer who had been suffering from cancer for the last couple of years.

Nasim Bibi and Farzana Bibi, the wives of Shahid and Zahid, are said to be sisters. Seventeen-year-old Fahad, his seven-year-old sister Amna and their cousin Misbah are also among those murdered mercilessly.

The victim family had been residing in the rented house for the last 15 years. “They were very good people and quite gentlemen. They had no dispute with anybody. It’s appalling and terrible,” said Muhammad Shahbaz, a family friend of the deceased, who reached the spot as the police arrived. The three brothers are said to be the sons of a lawyer. Another five brothers of the deceased men are residing separately.

Lahore DIG (Operations) Rana Abdul Jabbar made it clear that anything at this stage could be premature as the investigators were waiting for the autopsy report to ascertain the cause of deaths. “We have collected evidences from the crime scene and are working on different lines to solve the mystery. It’s premature (at this stage) to reach the conclusion,” the officer insisted.

“Four bodies (of a man, his wife, son and daughter) were lying in a bedroom at the ground floor while another man, his wife, and daughter were lying murdered at the upper portion. The cancer patient was recovered dead from his bedroom,” SP Malik Awais told The Nation after visiting the crime scene.

Chief of CIA police Muhammad Omar Virk, who is the head of one of the police teams probing the killings, said the police don’t believe old enmity or robbery attempt in the killings of eight persons of the same family.

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has taken notice of the incident and asked for robust investigations to bring the culprits to book.