Kerala: Woman, two held for serial deaths in a family

Jolly Joseph

The mystery around the deaths of six members of a family over a period of 15 years at Kozhikode in Kerala has been unravelled as a heinous serial killing plotted by a woman in their relation.

Kerala police on Saturday arrested the accused woman and two aides after exhuming mortal remains from the tombs.

The deceased include woman's husband and his parents.

Suspicion raised by another member of the family. Sudden death after eating food and the presence of the woman during all the deaths led to unravelling the crimes that took place between 2002 and 2016 at Koodathai, about 30 kilometers from Kozhikode city.

Police identified the accused as Jolly Joseph (47) M S Mathew alias Shaji (44) and Praji Kumar (48).

Kozhikode-rural Superintendent of Police K G Simon said the three were now arrested in connection with the murder of Jolly's husband Roy's in 2011.

Consumption of Potassium Cyanide was the reason for Roy's death, which was so far considered as suicide.

Jolly masterminded the murder to inherit family's wealth seemed to be her ultimate motive. Saji, who worked at a jewellery shop collected Potassium Cyanide from Praji Kumar, a goldsmith, and gave to Jolly, who was his friend.

The serial deaths began with Annama, a retired school teacher, in 2002 at the age of 57, followed by her husband Tom Thomas (66) in 2008, their son Roy Thomas (40) in 2011,  Annama's brother Mathew (68) in 2014, Roy's paternal cousin Shaju's daughter Alphine (one), in 2014, and Shaju's wife Sily in 2016.

All died after collapsing immediately after having food. Only Roy's body was subjected to autopsy and found presence of Potassium Cyanide. But the probe was closed as suicide.

Complaint from Roy's brother

The fresh investigation was initiated a couple of months back after Roy's brother Rojo filed a complaint with police after Jolly tried to illegally inherit family wealth by forging documents.

Police's assumption was that Jolly killed her mother-in-law to get control over the family. Father-in-law might have been killed as he refused to give family wealth to Roy as already his share was given in cash.

Jolly and Roy was having a strained relationship and this could have led to Roy's killing. Roy's uncle Mathew insisted on a detailed probe into Roy's death and this could be the provocation for killing him.

The provocations for killing Roy's cousin Shaju's wife Sily and their child was not clear. But Shaju and Jolly got married one year after the death of Sily. Police said that so far no evidence for Shaju's involvement in the serial killing was received, though it can't be ruled out.

The SP said that so far evidence was collected only regarding the involvement of the accused in the murder of Roy. Probe into other killings would be also initiated. There are many other facts which were being verified.

Habitual fraudster

Jolly, who holds a degree in commerce, lied to her relatives that she was a B.Tech holder and working as a lecturer at NIT in Kozhikode. She also used to go for work from home daily over the last 15 years. There were reports that she was having illicit affairs and was having financial obligations also.

Though the police opened the family tomb on Friday to collect specimens of the bodies for further scientific examinations, only two bodies could be recovered. Remains of other bodies were suspected to be shifted during the renovation of the cemetery, said the police.

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