Sister Abhaya Murder: 28 Years On, Kerala Catholic Priest, Nun Convicted

Sister Abhaya Murder: The incident was initially labelled as "death by suicide" by police and Crime Branch officials. Amid protests and petitions, the case was transferred to the CBI.

Sister Abhaya, 21, was murdered and her body was dumped inside the well of a convent in Kottayam.

Highlights

  • Sister Abhaya killed, body dumped in convent well in Kottayam in 1992
  • Father Thomas Kottoor, hostel in-charge Sister Sephy convicted
  • Quantum of punishment will be delivered tomorrow
Thiruvananthapuram:

A special CBI court in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram today delivered its verdict in a 28-year-old murder case as it held a Catholic priest and a nun guilty. Sister Abhaya, 21, was murdered and her body was dumped inside the well of a convent in Kottayam in 1992.

Among those convicted is Father Thomas Kottoor, who was a Vicar and taught Sister Abhaya psychology at Kottayam's BCM College. He was also Secretary to the then Bishop. He later rose to be Chancellor of the Catholic Diocese in Kottayam.

Another convict, Sister Sephy, stayed in the same hostel as Sister Abhaya and was de facto in-charge of the hostel. The quantum of punishment will be delivered tomorrow.

Both of them have been found guilty of murder and destruction of the evidence. Father Thomas Kottoor has also been convicted of house-trespassing.

Human rights activist Jomon Puthenpurackal, the lone surviving member of the panel that fought to pursue justice in the murder case, said: "Sister Abhaya's case has finally got justice. She will rest in peace. This is a classic example of how no one should think that just because they have power - money and muscle power - they can de-rail justice."

As per the CBI, Sister Abhaya was witness to intimate contacts between Kottoor, another Father, Jose Poothrikkayil, and Sephy on March 27, 1992 as she went from her hostel room to the kitchen at around 4.15 AM.

Between 4:15 AM and 5 AM, the accused allegedly hit Sister Abhaya with a blunt object and threw her body in to the well to cover-up the crime.

Two years ago, Poothrikkayil, one of those initially accused, was acquitted by a special CBI court. However, discharge petitions of the other two - Kottoor and Sephy - were rejected.

The incident was initially labelled as "death by suicide" by police and Crime Branch officials. Amid protests and petitions, the case was transferred to the CBI.

The central agency's first three final reports were rejected by the court that wanted a more thorough investigation.

The court pointed to various discrepancies, including the fact that dogs did not bark that night, the fact that the kitchen door was latched from outside and that residents of the convent did not hear the sound of Sister Abhaya "falling" into the well.