Last October, an elderly couple in Karuvaloor village of Kerala’s Kollam district woke up to a shock: their son Sam Abraham, 34, had died in Australia, where he worked. He had just been home on leave and returned with his wife and son only three days earlier.
Sam’s wife, Sofia, brought his body home, attended the funeral and returned soon to Melbourne, where she too had a job. She told her in-laws that Sam had died of a sudden heart attack.
Melbourne police, however, suspected murder and declared last week that they have cracked the case. Sam was poisoned with cyanide by Sofia, they had concluded, and arrested her along with a friend, Arun Kamalasanan, also from Kollam and working in Melbourne.
According to reports in the Australian media, police stumbled upon the alleged murder plot while probing an assault on Sam in July last year. For the last three months, detectives had been intercepting calls between Sofia and Kamalasanan, leading to the arrest.
The two were remanded in custody until February 13 next year. When the court pronounced the remand order, they reportedly stood expressionless. Sofia’s seven-year-old son was handed over to the care of her elder sister Sonia, a nurse in Melbourne.
Sam and Sofia were childhood friends, singing in the choir of a local church. Sofia, the youngest daughter of a retired defence officer, is believed to have met Kamalasanan while in college. She studied M Sc in electronics and worked as an IT professional in Bengaluru and Thiruvananthapuram. She married Sam in 2008.
“Sam and Sofia knew each other from childhood and their friendship developed into a romance,” said Sam’s father. “I initially opposed their marriage but was forced to accept it when Sofia threatened to kill herself.”
Helped by her elder sister, Sofia moved to Melbourne before Sam did. Sam, who was then working with a money exchange in Oman, joined Sofia in Melbourne in 2013. They sang devotional songs there too, in the choir of Mar Thoma Church in Melbourne.
Kamalasanan, an instrumentation engineer, was already in Melbourne since 2008. He is married with a son.
Sam’s father said the family never knew about Sofia’s alleged extramarital affair, nor had they ever heard of Kamalasanan. “We got to know about such a person only after news reports about the arrest. A week before the arrest, Sofia had called me to inform us that she was planning to move to a new house,” he said. Since Sam’s death, Sofia used to call every Saturday, Sam’s father said.
“Even a week before the arrest, she and our grandson talked to us. We had no inkling about her affair with Kamalasanan, who is also from Kollam,” the senior Abraham said.
He said Sam had informed the family about the attack on him in July last year. It was at a railway station in Melbourne. “It was a murder attempt. A man with his face covered in a balaclava had been hiding in Sam’s car at the railway station,” Sam’s father said. “He stabbed Sam in the neck and cheek. Sam could not recognise the assailant but thought he was targeted by robbers because he was working at a money exchange. But, now police suspect Kamalasanan. Apart from that, a few other assault attempts too took place but Sam did not inform us.”
During his annual visit to his parents in October last year, Sam had casually told his father, “I don’t have long to live.” His father recalled, “I scolded him and asked him how can you die so young. I told him not to hurt us with such comments. He laughed.”
Sam and his family left for Melbourne on October 11, 2015. Three days later, Sofia informed the family that Sam had suffered a heart attack in his sleep. Sofia, her son and her elder sister accompanied the body to Kerala. Four days after the funeral, Sofia rushed back to Melbourne, saying her job would be at risk otherwise.
“The documents sent along with the body were only the reports required to dispatch the body,” Sam’s father said. “One report mentioned the cause of death as artillery collapse. While returning, she took away all documents relating to Sam. Three days after the funeral, she went to a local bank with Sam’s death certificate and got all deposits and investment papers transferred to her and her son’s names.”
He said some members of the family did appear unconvinced about the cause of death and found Sofia’s behaviour “suspicious”. “They wanted to question her but I dissuaded them as we were shattered over the loss of our son.”
Sofia’s parents are now staying with their elder daughter. The Abrahams said Sofia’s family has not contacted them after the arrest. The family of Kamalasanan could not be contacted. There have been reports that his wife, now estranged, is living in Kerala.
“We want the custody of our grandson, but don’t have the resources to fight a legal battle in Australia,” said Sam’s father, who has another son, an IT professional. “Sometimes, we feel may have to wait until our grandson becomes an adult.”