Abhaya case verdict to come after nearly 3 decades

Abhaya murder case verdict to come after nearly three decades

21-year-old Sister Abhaya was found dead in the well of the Pius X convent in Kottayam in 1992

Representative image. Credit: iStockPhoto

Surviving several attempts to scuttle the probe, judgement in the 28-year-old Abhaya murder case of Kerala is scheduled to be pronounced by CBI special court in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday.

With many witnesses passing away and many turning hostile, it was the witness statement of a small-time robber that became crucial in the case. The nun accused in the case even allegedly undergoing hymenorrhaphy to scuttle the investigation. The relentless fight of human rights activist Jomon Puthenpurackal was also instrumental in taking forward the case.

21-year-old Sister Abhaya was found dead in the well of the Pius X convent in Kottayam on March 27, 1992. Knanaya Catholic priest Thomas M Kottoor, who is the first accused, and Sister Sephy, who is the third accused, are facing trial. Second accused father Jose Poothrikkayil was discharged earlier and CBI would be filing an appeal against it. Sister Abhaya was allegedly murdered after she witnessed the illicit affairs of the accused. Abhaya's parents died a few years ago.

Investigation teams of the Kerala Police initially concluded that Sister Abhaya died by suicide. Though the CBI took over the probe in 1994 found that it was murder, the initial investigation teams could not trace the accused and tried to close the investigation at least three times. But the court insisted on a further probe. The present CBI team took over the probe about 15 years ago. Catholic priests and a nun were even subjected to a narco analysis test to unearth the facts. They were arrested in November 2008. The CBI filed a charge sheet in July 2009.

CBI's finding was that Abhaya happened to witness the accused in a compromising position in the wee hours of the day she was found dead. Subsequently, she was murdered by being hit by an axe and her body was dumped in the well of the convent.

Sephy has even allegedly undergone hymenorrhaphy as part of efforts to scuttle the probe. While many key accused in the case died, a small-time robber Raju alias 'Adayka' Raju stated before the court that he witnessed two priests in the convent in the early hours of the day Abhaya was found dead. Raju entered the convent premises with the purpose of robbery.

Jomon said that though there were 133 prosecution witnesses in the case initially, only 49 could be examined before the court as many died and several were too aged as the case was prolonged.