A Catholic priest, one of the key witnesses in the rape case against Bishop Franco Mulakkal, was found dead under suspicious circumstances at Hoshiarpur district of Punjab on Monday. Father Kuriakose Kattuthara (62) was found lying in an unconscious state by his assistant at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Dasuya sub-division; he was rushed to the hospital where he was declared brought dead.
Father Kuriakose had served as a priest in the Jalandhar diocese and had given a statement to the police against Bishop Mulakkal, who has been accused of raping a nun 13 times between 2014 and 2016. The deceased priest had also served as a vocational trainer in a convent belonging to the Missionaries of Jesus, and had offered assistance to other nuns who had expressed their grievances against the Bishop.
Providing details, an eyewitness in the case said the priest had vomited near his bed.
While the exact cause behind the death is yet to be known, however, family members cried foul play behind the incident. Father Kattuthara’s family alleged that the priest had received death threats from those in the church for speaking against the Bishop.
Talking to The Indian Express from Pallippuram near Cherthala in Alappuzha (Kerala), the deceased priest’s brother Jose Kattuthara said, “I spoke to my brother last week over the phone when he told me that he was getting threats after Bishop Franco was granted bail in the rape case.”
Jose added, “I have filed a complaint with the police, demanding a probe into the case.” He also claimed that the police was aware of the threats issued to the priest. He said he will travel to Punjab soon.
Hoshiarpur Senior Superintendent of Police J Elanchezhian said the police was informed late about the incident. He added that it was the church officials who had rushed the priest to the hospital, where he was declared brought dead.
Dasuya Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) AR Sharma told news agency ANI that no injuries were found on the deceased priest’s body. “He (Father Kuriakose) used to live at St. Paul’s Church in Dasuya. He was found dead there. He was 62. The matter will be investigated. I have been informed that no injuries have been found,” the officer said.
The DSP added, “It was found that he had vomited over the bed. Blood pressure tablets were found at the spot. An investigation is underway. In our notice, no security was provided to him.”
Bishop Mulakkal, who has been accused of subjecting a nun to unnatural sex on multiple occasions over two-and-a-half-years, is currently out on bail.
A large number of people, including supporters and Independent MLA P C George, had greeted the 54-year-old clergyman as he came out of the sub-jail at Pala last week, 25 days after he was arrested. The court, while granting the conditional bail, had directed the bishop to leave the state within 24 hours of his release from the prison.