Longest Running Murder Investigation In Kerala: 27 Years After A Murder Most Foul, Trial Begins In Sister Abhaya Case

Sister Abhaya (Pic via Twitter)

The CBI court in Thiruvanathapuram has directed Father (Fr) Thomas Kottoor and Sister (Sr) Sephy, both accused in the Sr Abhaya murder case, to be present before it on 5 August, The New Indian Express reported.

CBI special judge K Sanalkumar ordered that Fr Thomas Kottoor, the first accused in the case and Knanaya Catholic nun Sr Sephy, third accused in the case. to be present in the court while the chargesheet is read out the chargesheet against them.

When the case came up for hearing , only Fr Thomas Kottoor was present in the court. Since the presence of both the accused persons was mandatory to read out the charges framed against them, the duo was strictly told to be present in the court for next hearing. The next hearing was postponed to 5 August.

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Earlier this year in April, dismissing a discharge petition filed by the accused, the Kerala HC said that Fr Thomas Kottoor and Sr Stephy will have to undergo trial in the murder case.

Sister Abhaya, a Catholic sister, was found dead in a water well in St Pius X Convent in Kottayam on 27 March 1992. Investigation into this death is by far the longest running murder investigation saga in Kerala.

The local police and the Crime Branch closed investigation claiming that it was a suicide case. However based on a writ petition, the High Court of Kerala transferred the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

While the first CBI team announced that it is unable to ascertain whether it was a suicide or a murder, a second investigative team established that it was a case of murder but said that it was unable to unearth any evidence.

Based on a court ordered probe, a a third CBI team was asked to investigate, following which it finally found two priests, Fr Thomas Kottoor and Fr Jose Puthrukayil and Sr Seffi responsible for the murder and arrested them on 19 November 2008.

The CBI informed the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ernakulam that Sr Seffi had struck Abhaya three times in the head at St Pius X Convent, Kottayam before disposing off the nun's body in the well behind the convent in the wee hours of the day.

Sr Seffi had pummelled Sr Abhaya with the back of an axe twice behind her right ear and a third time right in the top of the head, inside the kitchen of the convent.

As per the CBI account, Sr Abhaya is said to have accidentally intruded upon Sr Sephy and the other two accused priests in a "compromising position".

The CBI chargesheet provided details of the brutality of the act of Sr Seffi and her companions towards a younger co-nun by pointing out that the perpetrators of the crime had left the spot only after ensuring that Sr Abhaya was dead in the well.

The CBI chargesheet stated that Sr Abhaya had fallen unconscious following Sr Seffi's axe-strikes in the head, Fr Fr Thomas Kottoor and Fr Jose Puthrukayil had dragged her with the help of the nun to the well behind the convent and flung her into it.

The CBI investigators informed the court that the two priests and the nun with the help of several others had made efforts to destroy evidence in order to project Sr Abhaya's death as a case of suicide and Church wielded its enormous clout to influence the investigating agencies in Kerala, first the local police and later the Crime Branch.

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