Bishop’s arguments blunted with solid proof

The probe team was armed with painstakingly collected evidence while interrogating the accused

Published - September 22, 2018 11:29 pm IST - KOCHI

 Bishop Franco Mulakkal being brought out of the Kottayam Police Club.

Bishop Franco Mulakkal being brought out of the Kottayam Police Club.

The perceived delay in initiating action against bishop Franco Mulakkal, accused of raping a nun, had indeed made the police an object of curiosity or, worse, scorn.

Unfazed by criticism from all around, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) had moved meticulously, collecting evidence and ironing out inconsistencies before making the final move.

Indeed, so strong was the evidence collected, especially in the second phase of investigation, that it enabled the investigators to wear the bishop down on the second day of interrogation and counter his contention that he was being framed.

The complaint against the bishop was lodged on June 27 when the victim, a nun attached to the St. Francis Mission Home, near Kuravilangad, under the Missionaries of Jesus, filed a complaint accusing the bishop of sexually abusing her on 14 occasions between 2014 and 2016.

During the interrogation, the bishop initially maintained that the victim was avenging the disciplinary action he had initiated against her in May 2017. Armed with evidence of her revealing the ordeal as early as September 2016 through confession at a prayer meeting held at Attappady in Palakkad, the investigators challenged his contention.

That the victim had, besides confessing about the incident, apprised some in the Church hierarchy about the sexual harassment she was subjected to was also brought to bear on the case.

The investigators also called into question the bishop’s statement that he had stayed at a convent at Muthalakkodam on the date of the alleged rape. A verification of the visitors’ register of the mission home established that the bishop had stayed at the convent on all the days of alleged rape and sexual abuse.

Based on the finding, the room where the abuse had allegedly taken place was subjected to scientific examination.

Letters as proof

The SIT also challenged the bishop’s stance that the Jalandhar diocese had never interfered in the affairs of the Missionaries of Jesus. The investigators could obtain letters sent by the accused to the Mother General of the institution seeking disciplinary action against the nun and another letter reminding her about the action that he wanted taken. At a point, the bishop had also denied knowing the victim, which the police could easily challenge by showing an old photograph of the accused seen together with the victim at a function.

While the evidence helped the sleuths to clarify details and reach conclusions, the decision to arrest was taken only after multi-level discussions spread over the three-day-long interrogation.

The team had also sought legal opinion before taking him into custody. Though the team has not confirmed it officially, it is learnt that they are in receipt of more complaints of sexual harassment against the bishop.

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