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Koodathayi case: decoding murders most foul

The family tomb of Ponnamattom Family at Lourdes Matha Church , Koodathayi in Kozhikode district

The family tomb of Ponnamattom Family at Lourdes Matha Church , Koodathayi in Kozhikode district   | Photo Credit: S. Rameash Kurup

Investigations lay bare a crime that may invoke accounts of acts of notorious serial killers

One thing is for sure. Koodathayi is going to be known for the suspected murders of six members of a family. Maybe forever.

The village of settler farmers in eastern Kozhikode may take a long time to recover from the shock caused by the serial murders, and even longer to shake off their notoriety.

The unfolding probe is also a game changer. It lays bare more than the plot of a horrible crime – a crime that may invoke accounts of the acts of notorious serial killers in modern history.

Watch | Koodathayi serial murders: Jolly Joseph confessed to plotting and killing six family members

True, the disclosure of the police that Jolly Joseph, a 47-year-old woman, is behind the mysterious deaths of the six people that took place over a span of 14 years, is dreadful enough. But no less appalling is the way she managed to dupe everyone in her family and in the neighbourhood for all these years.

Appalling lapses

Police investigations have also brought into focus things that should not have happened:

Even after the post-mortem report confirmed the presence of cyanide in one of the six victims’ bodies, the local police considered it as a case of suicide and did no follow-up probe into the lethal chemical; the death of Mathew Manchadiyil, who insisted for the autopsy of the body, triggered no suspicion among local investigators and family members; and the prime suspect managed to get close to having the property of her father-in-law illegally transferred to her allegedly using loopholes in the Revenue Department’s system.

This set of lapses sticks out like a sore thumb. Especially against the backdrop of the investigation into the mysterious deaths that have drawn national and even international attention.

Shame and honour

Also to blame, perhaps, is the shame and honour culture that prevails in our society. There was strong resistance to autopsy of the body of Jolly’s husband Roy Thomas and even stronger resistance to his siblings’ demand for further probe that led to the exhumation of all the six who died at Koodathayi.

Social status of the families of the victims apparently put the police, neighbours and family members of the victims in denial mode.

The new investigation squad constituted to probe into the suspected murders has its work cut out. The job of gathering probative evidence against the malicious afterthought in five of the six suspected murders is not easy now. The crucial question is whether exhumed samples from the graves at this delayed stage will be helpful to prove the crime. To all appearances, the probe is a huge challenge. Expert forensic pathologists are expected to be roped in — to assist the investigators to gather scientific evidence.

The names of Harold Shipman and John Bodkin Adams are now being conjured up in the context of the disclosures about the six mysterious deaths at Koodathayi. Their notoriety as serial killers is unparalleled, of course.

But those names should keep reminding us of the need to have a mechanism to spot psychopaths early on. The main obstacle to the evolution of such a mechanism is the laid-back attitude — as seen in the response of the police and relatives to the mysterious deaths in the village.

(MALABAR MAIL is a weekly column by The Hindu’s correspondents that will reflect Malabar’s life and lifestyle)

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 1:31:14 AM |

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