A Kerala court has pronounced the guilty verdict on Monday in a 28-year-old murder case of Sister Abhaya.
A Special CBI Court Judge K Sanal Kumar in Thiruvananthapuram has found father Thomas Kottoor and Sister Sephy – a nun of the Catholic Church, guilty of murder in the case. As per the CBI, the convicts murdered Sister Abhaya after she happened to witness their intimate exchanges.
Nine prosecution witnesses in the case had turned hostile during the trial that had started in August 2019.
The quantum of punishment for Father Thomas Kottoor and Sister Sefi will be pronounced on Wednesday.
Background of the case
On 27th March 1992, a nun of Syro Malabar Catholic Church, Sister Abhaya (aged 18 years) was found dead in the well of Pious Tenth Convent at Kottayam. Reportedly, she was pursuing her pre-degree course.
Initially, the state police investigated the matter and in 1993 they concluded that the victim had died by suicide, sources reported. However, after an activist, Jomon Puthenpurackal took the matter before the court, the case was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Subsequently, in 1996, the CBI filed a report stating that it could not conclude whether it was a homicide or suicide. The court, however, rejected the submission and ordered a re-investigation. A year later, the central agency concluded that the case was indeed a homicide, but there was no evidence to try the case. This was again rejected by the court and the third round of CBI probe began.
Ten years later, the CBI in 2008 made its first arrests in the case. Catholic priests Thomas Kottoor, Father Jose Poothrukayil, and Sister Sefi were charged with the nun’s murder, destruction of evidence, and criminal conspiracy. As per the report, Sister Abhaya had accidentally intruded upon Sister Sephy and the other two accused priests in a ‘compromising position’. Thereafter, it was alleged that Sister Sephy panicked and in the spur of the moment, Sephy hit Abhaya with an axe meant for chopping firewood. After that, the three accused allegedly pushed the nun into the well while she was still alive. The prosecution informed the court that the accused had gone to numerous lengths to destroy the evidence in the case and hide their sexual relations.
In 2009, the Kerala High Court granted them bail. Meanwhile, Father Poothrukayil was exonerated last year, after no evidence was found against him. KT Micheal, a former officer of the Kerala police special branch, who was accused of destruction of evidence, was also discharged by the court last year.