28 years on, priest, nun convicted for murder

Thiruvananthapuram

Twenty-eight years after a nun was found dead in the well of her convent, a CBI special court here found a priest and a nun of the same congregation guilty of the sister’s murder. The quantum of punishment would be pronounced on Wednesday.

Sister Abhaya, a 21-year old pre-degree student and inmate of Pious Tenth Convent in Kottayam, was found dead on March 27, in what was made out as a case of suicide. But the untiring efforts of a social worker, named Jomon Puthenpurackal, who pursued the case through its various stages all these years, saw to it that it reached its logical conclusion --- Father Kottoor and Sister Sephie have now been found guilty of murder.

Sister Abhaya was murdered as she accidentally found Kottoor and Sephie in a compromising position in the company of a second priest, Father Jose Pithrukkayil. The second priest had earlier been discharged from the case due to apparent lack of evidence.

The case had been written off several times allegedly under pressure from Vatican through the highest political authority in the country, judiciary and the administration to the local police and even the CBI as a case of suicide.

In what is widely believed as providential intervention, all the efforts to bury the case failed as three chief judicial magistrates at different times rejected consecutive CBI findings that the sister had committed suicide as she and her family members had a history of suicidal tendencies.

What turned out to be critical in the conviction was the statement by a thief, known as areca nut Raju, who happened to be at the convent at that time for stealing copper cable. The local police had tried to put the crime on his head, but the man resisted till the end, even refusing to be lured by huge rewards, including money, a house, job for his wife and good education for his children.

“It was God who had appeared there in the shape of the thief,” commented Jom­on Punthenpurackal, considers himself a man of poor means and educated up to class 6 as deployed by God to secure justice for Abhaya’s departed soul.

The thief, who has since changed his profession, expressed joy at the verdict and said that he had resolved that would help the truth to come out.

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