RAUDHA Athif was just 21 and the model who grew up in the picturesque Maldives appeared to have the world at her feet — until she turned up dead in a hostel room in Bangladesh.
After posting pictures of herself on social media, Raudha got international recognition as the “Maldivian girl with aqua blue eyes”. The image of her emerging from crystal blue sea went viral and eventually helped her land on the cover of Vogue India in October 2016.
Shortly after, in March 2017, she was found dead in a hostel dormitory in Bangladesh.
According to police, 21-year-old Raudha hanged herself with a scarf from the ceiling fan in her college dormitory room. An autopsy report, conducted by three doctors at Rajshahi Medical College Hospital, ruled Raudha’s death as suicide.
But her family continues to reject the finding, claiming she was murdered.
Ms Athif was hoping to transfer to an Australian university to complete her medical degree.
“Modelling is a hobby rather than a career for me, since I’m studying to become a doctor,” she told Vogue India when they photographed her last year.
In tonight’s episode of 60 Minutes, reporter Peter Stefanovic travelled to Bangladesh to investigate to unlikely tragedy of young model with plans to move down under.
The episode explored the patchy evidence collected by authorities in the case and the possibility that jealousy played a role in the model’s death.
Australian forensic pathologist, Professor Joe DuFlou told 60 Minutes that the marks found on her body paint a sinister picture of murder rather than suicide.
For instance, the scarf authorities say she used to hang herself does not match the marks on her neck.
“I’d have grave doubts that ligature caused those ligature marks. It just doesn’t match.”
When asked if he thinks it might not have been suicide, he replied; “oh yes, absolutely.”
The manager at the hostel where her body was found previously told reporters that Raudha “always looked happy” and that it was “hard to believe she would commit suicide”.
Raudha’s father, Mohammed Athif, a doctor, has expressed disbelief that it was a suicide.
After her body was found, he wrote on Twitter: “Maldivian medical student and my daughter Raudha Athif did not commit suicide. She was murdered at her hostel room. I’ve the facts.”
Her brother Rayyan Athif, 18, believes his sister was murdered and her death was staged as a suicide.
“Raudha was a happy girl with a bright future and a promising career ahead of her. She was friendly, lighthearted and full of life. Her friends and family find it impossible to believe that she would take her own life,” he brother told The Sun earlier this year.
Adding to the intrigue of this case is the unsettling fact that Raudha is not the only model to die in Bangladesh. Two models supposedly committed suicide in the last few years under dubious circumstances.
“There have been a series of murders in Bangladesh which have been staged to look like suicides and Islamic extremists have been suspected to be behind these atrocities,” her brother Rayyan Athif said.
He believes his sister, who was a Muslim, was targeted because she was a public figure who defended victims bullied over religious controversies.
“Her style of clothing was branded as ‘immodest’ and ‘un-Islamic’ even though she adhered to the dress code in the college premises by wearing a veil covering her face,” he said.
“But she was criticised for wearing jeans and was repeatedly told she couldn’t wear it at the Muslim college — which has a lot of extremist connections and support. Other students have also been subjected to this type of bullying.”
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