Hundreds of people gathered outside a local court in Kerala's Kozhikode on Thursday as a woman who has allegedly confessed to killing at least six people over money and property was led away by the police. Jolly Shaju, 47, is the main accused in the sensational Kerala serial killings that have captivated the nation over the past few days.
Along with two other accused, Jolly was sent to police custody for six days. The other two are 44-year-old MS Mathew, a friend of Jolly, and Prajikumar, 48, who allegedly supplied the cyanide used by Jolly to murder at least half-a-dozen people.
Jolly Shaju was arrested on Saturday for the murder of her former husband, who died of cyanide poisoning. The police say she has confessed to murdering five others, but they are focusing on getting evidence first.
The challenge is that the six murders span 14 years - from 2002 to 2016.
The only conclusive evidence the police have is on the former husband's murder. The case was reopened after his brother filed a complaint. This led to five more bodies being dug up, including that of a one-year-old girl.
The court has ordered the police to produce Jolly before the court next Wednesday.
Loknath Behra, Director General of Police, says his force will reach out to the best of experts in the country and abroad for the examination of samples from the exhumed bodies.
A commerce graduate, Jolly was described as a pious, well-liked woman. Neighbours and friends are stunned that the police believe she was really a cold-blooded serial killer who didn't even spare children.
The investigating officer, KG Simon, says Jolly confessed to poisoning all six allegedly for money and property.
"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 complete control over the financial transactions within the family," said KG Simon.
The second person to be killed was Tom Thomas, her father-in-law. He was also killed over property.
The third was Roy Thomas (her husband), and the next, Mathew Thomas (Annamma's brother). Mathew Thomas was the one who had insisted on a post mortem after Roy's death.
The fifth victim was one-year-old Alphine Shaju, her current husband's daughter from an earlier marriage. The police said they were told the child died after choking on food. "But that is not the real reason. We did a thorough analysis in this case, we consulted doctors, researchers and we have found out that there are symptoms that point towards the use of cyanide in all the cases," said Mr Simon.
The sixth death was that of Philly - Jolly's husband's first wife. Jolly reportedly told the police she gave Philly some water and she died after drinking that water. It was allegedly poisoned. "After all these deaths, she married Shaju," Mr Simon said.