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Behind Abhaya murder verdict: Thief’s statement, kitchen disruption, forensic report

The location of the murder is significant – a convent, from which male presence is completely and unequivocally banned.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: December 24, 2020 7:59:27 am
Father Thomas Kottoor, main accused in Abhaya murder case, being brought out of the CBI court premises after his sentencing on Wednesday. (PTI Photo)

To arrive at the conclusion that Fr Thomas Kottoor and nun Sephy had murdered sister Abhaya in 1992, the CBI court has mainly banked on disturbance in the hostel kitchen, the statement of a thief, and report of a forensic expert.

Adakka Raju, a thief, had told the court that he had seen Kottoor in the convent building between 4 am and 4.30 am on the day Abhaya was killed. Raju was at the site until the 5-am siren and did not see Kottoor leave the location until he himself left.

“It follows that Kottoor remained there till at least 5 am,’’ Judge K Sanilkumar said.

The court went by forensic expert Dr Kanthaswamy’s conclusion that Abhaya’s death likely took place six to eight hours before the postmortem. This, the court noted, makes possible “the prosecution’s assertion that Abhaya was attacked between 4.15 am and 5 am…”

The location of the murder is significant – a convent, from which male presence is completely and unequivocally banned.

Given the nature of the head injury suffered by Abhaya, it is sufficient to cause death, the court noted Dr Kandaswamy’s deposition. “The only inference possible here is that Abhaya was attacked by the accused with intention to kill her,” the court said.

The court noted the abnormal disturbances that occurred in the kitchen work area and in the kitchen wash area of St Pius X Convent Hostel on the morning of March 27, 1992 and that nun Sephy was alone at the relevant time on the ground floor, and Abhaya’s body was recovered from the well near Sephy’s ground-floor room.

Judge Sanilkumar said in the order that Kottoor failed to properly explain his presence in the convent during the early hours, and the evidence of Achamma, a help, shows that the compound was guarded by fierce dogs, and that she had closed all the doors the previous night. It demonstrates the nefarious conduct of both accused, the court stated.

The order stated: “It is inexorable to infer that Kottoor entered the ground floor of the convent building with the help of Sephy to carry out their sexual activities, and on witnessing of the same by Sister Abhaya, she was attacked with a blunt weapon. It is proved that Sephy utilised medical intervention to shape artificially her body as that of a virgin, through evidence of two doctors who have examined her.”

The court also noted that it is “proved that Kottoor threatened Jomon Puthenpurackal, Convener, Action Council, while he was returning after taking part in a protest demonstration…. On the nature of evidence available…question of any entitlement of benefit of doubt would not arise: The evidence on record is worth its credence and is trustworthy…”

While delivering the verdict, Judge Sanilkumar quoted the observations in the Supreme Court order in Nageshwar Shri. Krishna Ghobe v State of Maharashtra; 1973: “Justice would fail not only by unjust conviction of the innocent but also by acquittal of the guilty for unjustified failure to produce available evidence.’’

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