Three years after a woman from Coimbatore was found dead at the parsonage of the Catholic Church in Chandrapuram, in Kerala’s Palakkad district, Palakkad police Friday arrested Coimbatore diocese Bishop Thomas Aquinas and three other priests of the same diocese for allegedly withholding information on the death.
Bishop Acquinas and the priests — Kulantha Raj, Madalai Muthu and Lawrance Melcure — were held under IPC Sections 201 (destroying evidence or giving false information) and 202 (intentionally omitting information). They were given bail after recording their statements, the police said.
Coimbatore native Fathima Sofia, 19, was found dead at the parsonage on July 23, 2013. The then parish priest of St Stanlisalus Church in Chandrapuram, Fr H Arockyaraj, was arrested last year in connection with the death.
In May this year, the district court of Palakkad asked the police to look into the role of Bishop Acquinas and the three priests in allegedly suppressing information on the crime.
The case was reopened last year after the victim’s mother, Shanthi Roselin, got a favourable verdict from the court for further investigation. The police had earlier concluded that Sofia had committed suicide as her body was found hanging. But Roselin argued that her daughter was sexually exploited in the church.
Coimbatore diocese vicar general Fr John Joseph Stains said they had dismissed Arockyaraj from the priesthood. But let the court decide whether it was a murder, Fr Stains added.