Kerala

Sister Abhaya murder case | CBI court finds Father Thomas Kottoor, Sister Sephy guilty of murder

In this combo picture, Fr. Thomas. M. Kottoor and Sister Sephy leave the Vanchiyur court premises in Thiruvananthapuram on December 22, 2020.   | Photo Credit: T. Nandakumar

After almost 28 years of legal wrangling, a special court of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) here on Tuesday found that Fr. Thomas. M. Kottoor and Sister Sephy were guilty of the murder of 19-year-old novice Sister Abhaya who was found dead in a well at Pious X convent of the Knanaya Catholic order in Kottayam in March 1992.

CBI Special Judge K. Sanal Kumar will pronounce the quantum of their punishment on Wednesday. He found the accused liable for murder and destruction of evidence.

Sister Abhaya. File

Sister Abhaya. File  

 

The CBI's case was that the accused had killed Abhaya after the novitiate unwittingly discovered them in objectionable circumstances when she went to collect drinking water from the convent's kitchen on March 27 night.

The accused were startled by Abhaya's unexpected arrival. To prevent their liaison from being known, Sister Stephy bludgeoned Abhaya on the side of her head with the blunt side of an axe. The suspects dumped Abhaya's body in the well of the convent to make her murder appear as a suicide. The CBI had no case that the suspects had sexually assaulted Abhaya.

 

Earlier, the High Court had given Fr. Jose Poothrukayil and former Crime Branch SP K.T. Michael discharge from the case for want of evidence. The CBI had named Fr. Jose as an accomplice in the murder. It had accused Mr. Michael of destroying evidence.

The police had dismissed Abhaya's death as a suicide. A subsequent Crime Branch inquiry led by Mr. Michael seconded the finding. The findings caused public outrage. An action council headed by Jomon Puthenpurackal ushered in a CBI inquiry in 1995. Mr. Puthenpurackal doggedly pursued the case till it ended in conviction.

The case took a sensational turn in 1996 when the then CBI Dy.SP Varghese P. Thomas opted for voluntary retirement after he allegedly came under pressure to write off Abhaya's death as a suicide.

Also read: CBI produces offside witness in Abhaya case

The case meandered through various levels of the judiciary till trial finally commenced in August 2019. The CBI surmounted several odds, including hostile witnesses and missing pieces of material evidence, to convict the suspects. CBI SP Nandakumaran Nair prosecuted the case.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2021 12:26:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/sister-abhaya-case-cbi-court-finds-father-thomas-kottoor-sister-sephy-guilty/article33392574.ece

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