28 Years After Sister Abhaya's Murder, CBI Court To Give Verdict Today

Among the accused is Father Thomas Kottoor, who was a Vicar and taught Sister Abhaya psychology at Kottayam's BCM College

Sister Abhaya's body was found inside a well at a convent in Kerala's Kottayam

Thiruvananthapuram:

Nearly three decades after Sister Abhaya, 21, was murdered and her body dumped inside the well of a convent in Kerala's Kottayam, a CBI court in Thiruvananthapuram is set to deliver its verdict. The court is expected to rule on the matter at 11 am today.

The young woman's parents died four years ago.

Among the accused is Father Thomas Kottoor, who was a Vicar and taught Sister Abhaya psychology at Kottayam's BCM College. Kottoor, who was arrested in 2008, was also Secretary to the then Bishop. He later rose to be Chancellor of the Catholic Diocese in Kottayam.

Another accused, Sister Sephy, stayed in the same hostel as Sister Abhaya and was de facto in-charge of the hostel.

According to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Sister Abhaya was witness to intimate contacts between Kottoor, another Father, Jose Poothrikkayil, and Sephy on March 27, 1992.

This was 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.

Poothrikkayil, one of those initially accused, was acquitted by a CBI special court in 2018. However, discharge petitions of the other two - Kottoor and Sephy - were rejected.

Police and Crime Branch officials initially labelled the incident "death by suicide" and the case was transferred to the CBI amid protests and petitions. The central agency's first three final reports were rejected by the court, which 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.

In November 2008 the CBI arrested all three accused.

Human rights activist Jomon Puthenpurackal is the lone surviving member of the panel that fought for justice for Sister Abhaya.