Sister Abhaya case: Catholic priest, nun found guilty

Kerala: Priest and nun found guilty in 28-year-old Abhaya murder case

Catholic priests and the nun were even subjected to narco-analysis test to unearth the facts

A priest and nun in Kerala have been found guilty of murdering a nun at a convent in Kottayam district in Kerala 28 years back.

Sister Abhaya, aged 21, was found dead in the well of the St. Pius X convent in Kottayam on March 27, 1992. Knanaya Catholic priest Thomas M Kottoor, who was the first accused, and Sister Sephy, who was the third accused, were found guilty by the CBI special court in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday. Special judge K Sanil Kumar would be pronouncing sentence on Wednesday.

CBI's finding was that Abhaya was murdered after she witnessed the illicit affairs of the accused. While Thomas Kottoor was found guilty of murder, destruction of evidence and tress passing, Sephy was found guilty of murder. Second accused father Jose Poothrikkayil was discharged earlier and the CBI would be filing an appeal against it.

The case witnessed the investigation teams of the Kerala Police initially concluding it as a suicide. Though the CBI that took over the probe in 1994 found that it was a 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 further probe. The present CBI team took over the probe about 15 years back. The Catholic priests and nun were even subjected to narco analysis test to unearth the facts. They were arrested in November of 2008. The CBI filed charge sheet in 2009 July 17.

CBI's finding was that Abhaya, who was a second year pre-degree student of Kottayam BCM College, happened to witness the accused in compromising position when she came to kitchen to drink water. Subsequently she was murdered by hitting using an axe and her body was dumped in the well of the convent. Both the priests were former teachers at the college where Abhaya studied and Sephy was in-charge of the convent hostel.

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.

Sephy even allegedly underwent hymenorrhaphy as part of her efforts to scuttle the probe. The accused even alleged that Abhaya and her family were having mental illness history and hence she ended life by suicide. Though there were 133 prosecution witnesses in the case initially, only 49 could be examined before court as many died and many were too aged as the case prolonged.

Human rights activist Jomon Puthenpurackal who has been fighting for justice in the case over the last 28 years said that this verdict could be considered as God's verdict and the aim of his life accomplished. Apart from attempts to scuttle the probe, Jomon also faced several threats from many quarters for pursuing the case.

Abhaya's parents Thomas and Leelamma of Kottayam died a few years back. Her brother Biju said that God heard their prayers. If there was no intervention by influential people, the case could have been proved within months, he told a section of media.