Indian Catholic News

Kerala priest and nun face murder trial

Sister Abhaya was allegedly killed with an axe 27 years ago after witnessing illicit sexual relations.


The trial of a Catholic priest and a nun is scheduled to start on Aug. 5 over the axe murder of a nun 27 years ago at a convent in India's Kerala state.

The Supreme Court on July 15 dismissed a petition by Father Thomas Kottoor of Kottayam Archdiocese and St. Joseph Sister Sephy to have charges against them dropped.

The top court upheld a ruling of the southern state's High Court that dismissed the discharge plea.

Another person accused in the case, Father Jose Poothirkkayil, was removed from the list of accused in March 2018 by a special trial court of the federal Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The state's High Court confirmed the decision.

The charges filed in the court claimed both the priests maintained illicit relations with Sister Sephy.

In the early hours of March 27, 1992, a 19-year-old aspirant nun named Sister Abhaya allegedly saw the priests in the work area of the kitchen in a compromising position.

Investigators claimed the three joined together to hit the younger nun with an axe to kill her in an attempt to hide the illicit activity. They also dumped the body of the murdered nun in a well at the convent to make it look like a suicide, it was alleged.

The trial court said the investigation failed to produce evidence to prove Father Poothirkkayil's presence in the convent at the time of the crime and dismissed charges against him.

The state High Court also discharged a fourth accused, a former state police officer named K.T. Michael, who was alleged to have destroyed evidence.

"The investigators were writing fiction on the charge sheet. They have not produced any evidence to prove their claims," said a lawyer associated with the case.

Father Poothirkkayil told that he is confident that the "truth shall prevail." He said he hoped those on trial will be acquitted.

Father Thomas Kottoor told that he will be able to prove his innocence in court. He declined to say anything more while the matter is still before the court.

Lawyers connected with the case told that five different teams have investigated the case in the past quarter of a century.

The initial state police probe concluded that the nun's death was a suicide. Following an uproar, the government brought in the CBI.

Problems began for the priests and Sister Sephy after a Catholic priest wrote a confidential letter to the CBI seeking an investigation of their alleged role in Sister Abhaya's death, a lawyer said. However, during interrogation, he pleaded ignorance about such a letter.

The investigators found that there had indeed been a murder but stated that they had been unable to identify the culprits. However, a court ordered further investigation.

Three successive probes by different CBI teams recommended closure of the case and clearing the priests and the nun.

However, further court-ordered inquiries led to the trial that is to begin next month.

Source: UCAN

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