A 30-year-man is suspected of killing four of his family members in a bizarre occult ritual in the southern Indian state of Kerala. The suspect reportedly confessed that he killed his parents, his sister and a relative as part of an 'astral projection' experiment, hoping to attain supernatural powers. Astral projection is a term used to describe a stream of esotericism in which one's soul leaves the physical body providing an out-of-body experience.

Cadell Jeanson Raja was taken into custody by the Kerala police shortly after the four were found dead in their house on 8 April. The blood-curdling incident came to light after neighbours complained about smoke billowing from the house in the early hours of Sunday, 9 April.

The victims were identified as the suspect's parents Raja Thankam, 60, and retired doctor Dr Jean Padma, 58, and his sister Caroline, 26. The fourth victim was a relative named Lalitha, 70. They had all been allegedly hacked with a machete.

The bodies of Cadell's parents and sister were found completely charred in a posh locality in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala. Lalitha's body was found chopped and packed in plastic sheet.

The chief minister's official residence is located just 500m from the crime spot.

Raja, who works in a private firm in Australia and was in Kerala on holiday, was arrested two days after the killings. Police claimed on interrogating Raja in the presence of psychiatrists, he said he was conducting "an experiment to detach human souls from their bodies".

Authorities added that Raja, who reportedly suffers from bipolar disorder, had no remorse over the murders but immediately admitted to the grisly crime. "Raja takes pride in claiming that he has 'freed' his relatives. Completely unrepentant, he cites weird philosophy to justify his deeds and – at times – contradicts himself," said a senior police official who is probing the case.

"It looks like he killed all the four with a sharp weapon on the same day, and then tried to burn their bodies," he added. No others are thought to be involved in the murders.