Close to a year after they began investigations into the sensational murder of a senior priest at a seminary linked to the Vatican, the Bangalore Police Friday claimed a breakthrough with the arrest of three priests, who allegedly conspired to carry out the killing.
An internal rivalry over control of seminary’s assets has been cited as the motive for the killing of K J Thomas, the rector of the St Peter’s Pontifical Seminary, on the intervening night of March 31 and April 1 last year. Karnataka police chief Lalrokhuma Pachaua identified the accused as Father Illyas Daniel, William Patrick and Peter.
Thomas was found murdered in a room at the seminary, which is involved in the training of priests, on the morning of April 1, 2013 by the principal of the seminary Fr Patrick Xavier. The case was a major challenge for police, with pressure to crack it coming from the chief minister and senior Congress leaders in Delhi. A few relatives of the deceased priest from Kerala recently approached the high court, seeking a CBI inquiry because of the delay in the police probe.
Police sources said priest Illyas Daniel served at Gulbarga, William Patrick at Kengery and Peter at Shiluvepura in Bangalore. “Two more priests who were involved in the case are still at large. We will nab them soon,” a source said. The three arrested priests were produced before a court and taken into police custody for a week. DGP Pachaua said Ilyas and his associates confessed to the offence. He said Thomas had been working in the seminary for many years and Illyas and other accused were unhappy with him for various reasons. Also, there was resentment among the accused that many of them were being sidelined for important posts and that only a few persons were occupying important seats. They wanted to bring change in the system inside the seminary and rise to prominence, the DGP said.
“The accused persons required important documents relating to the seminary to gain prominence. These records pertained to lands that were granted to the seminary. Therefore, they hatched a conspiracy to break into the seminary and obtain these documents,” Pachau said.
They allegedly decided to execute their plan on March 31, 2013 as it was Easter time and the accused knew that most at the seminary would be away and there would be no one other than Fr Thomas and a few others. According to the police, on the night of the murder Illyas, William Patrick, Peter and others met near the Yeshwantpur Circle and walked up to the seminary armed with rods and other weapons.
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“They began to break open locks of seminary rooms and started searching for the documents. Fr Thomas came out of his room and saw the accused, who then assaulted him causing his death. They left no clue behind,” the police chief said.
Police said they cracked the case following several leads. Fingerprints were taken from the spot and matched with the fingerprint data base of known offenders in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa and Puducherry. More than 2,000 people were examined.
Five persons, including three priests present at the time of the killing at the seminary, were subjected to narco tests. The investigations led them to Illyas and his associates.
Police Commissioner Raghavendra H Auradkar said the police would not be able to reveal more details as it may hamper further investigations. “The investigation is still on. Some more persons will be nabbed soon,” he said.