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‘Sister Abhaya’s murder’ ; 28 years after CBI court announces verdict, convicts 2 of murder

Thiruvananthapuram: A special CBI court in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram today delivered its verdict in a 28-year-old case as it found a priest and nun guilty of a nun’s murder. The quantum of punishment will be determined on Thursday. The two religious figures have been convicted even though several crucial witnesses in the case had turned hostile. In fact, witnesses turning malicious was the most major challenge encountered by the prosecution during the trial, which began only in August 2019. Nearly 30 years after Sister Abhaya was killed and her body abandoned inside the well of a convent in Kerala’s Kottayam, a CBI court in Thiruvananthapuram is fixed to furnish its judgment.

The young woman’s parents passed away four years ago. Among the charged is Father Thomas Kottoor, who was a Vicar and taught Sister Abhaya psychology at Kottayam’s BCM College. Kottoor, who was apprehended in 2008, was also Secretary to the Bishop. He later advanced to be Chancellor of the Catholic Diocese in Kottayam. Another blamed, Sister Sephy, dwelled in the same hostel as Sister Abhaya and was de facto in-charge of the hostel.

As per the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Sister Abhaya was an eyewitness to personal connections between Kottoor, another Father, Jose Poothrikkayil, and Sephy on March 27, 1992. This was as she went from her hostel room to the kitchen at around 4.15 AM. Between that time, the accused hit Sister Abhaya with a sharp object and left her body in the well to cover-up the crime. Poothrikkayil, one of those initially charged, was exonerated by a CBI special court in 2018. Regardless, discharge petitions of the other two – Kottoor and Sephy – were denied.

Police and Crime Branch officials initially marked the incident “death by suicide” and the lawsuit was assigned to the CBI after objections and petitions. The central agency’s first three final reports were denied by the court, which desired a more detailed probe. The court indicated to diverse distinctions, including the fact that dogs did not bark that night, the fact that the kitchen door was locked from outside, and that residents of the convent did not hear the sound of Sister Abhaya “falling” into the well. In November 2008 the CBI captured all three accused. Human rights activist Jomon Puthenpurackal is the only surviving member of the committee that fought for justice for Sister Abhaya.

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