In a murder case right out of a mystery novel that has gripped Kerala's Kozhikode district, a woman has confessed to poisoning her husband and five other members of her family over the span of 14 years, the police have said. Her second husband, who was also married to one of the victims, is now being questioned by police.
Jolly, 47, was arrested in connection with the case on Saturday after five bodies were exhumed as part of a serial-murder probe. She was reportedly present at all the places where the victims died. Two of Jolly's close friends, suspected to have supplied her cyanide, a deadly poison, were also arrested. Police suspect the motive to be financial gain but are working on collecting evidence, especially since deaths date back to 2002.
The first of the mysterious deaths took place in 2002. The victim was Jolly's 57-year-old mother-in-law. "Annamma Thomas, her former mother-in-law was killed because she was the most important person in that family. It was a move to gain control over the complete financial transactions within the family," said a senior police officer.
Six years later, Annama's husband Tom Thomas, a 66-year-old government official died. "The second person was Tom Thomas, her-father-in-law. He was again killed to gain possession of property," the police said.
The third victim was Jolly's husband, Roy, 40, who died in 2011. In April 2014, Annama's brother Matthew, 68, became the fourth victim. "Mathew Thomas was the one who insisted that post-morterm should be conducted on Roy's death," the police officer said.
In May that year, Alphine, a 2-year-old relative, died. At the time, she was believed to have died after choking on food. Alphine was Jolly's second husband's daughter. The last victim was Alphine's mother Philly. She died in 2016.
"We have found out that there are symptoms that point towards the use of cyanide in all the cases," the officer said.
"After all these deaths, Jolly married Shaju (Philly's husband)", the police said.
Investigation in the case started after a complaint from Rojo Thomas, Roy's brother. Five bodies were exhumed from different graveyards; Roy's body was not exhumed because a post-mortem examination had already been completed in his case.
The police say they have discovered an underlying pattern connecting the six deaths and have found signs suggesting they were poisoned.