Nearly 28 years after Sister Abhaya was murdered and her body dumped inside the well of a Church 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 verdict will be a culmination of the longest running murder investigation saga in Kerala.
Among the accused is Father (Fr) Thomas Kottoor and Knanaya Catholic nun (Sr) Sephy.
Father Thomas Kottoor, who was a Vicar and taught Sister Abhaya psychology at Kottayam's BCM College, was arrested in 2008. He was serving as the Secretary to the then Bishop. He later rose to be Chancellor of the Catholic Diocese in Kottayam.
In April 2019, 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.
The second accused, Father Jose Poothrikkayil, was discharged by the CBI special court in 2018
Sister Abhaya, a Catholic sister, was found dead in a water well in St Pius X Convent in Kottayam on 27 March 1992.
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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