A special CBI court in Thiruvananthapuram is Tuesday set to pronounce its verdict in the 1992 murder case of Sister Abhaya, a 19-year-old Catholic nun whose body was found in a well inside a convent.
On March 27, 1992, Sr Abhaya was found dead at the St Pius X convent in Kottayam district of Kerala in what was initially concluded by the local police and the crime branch as a case of death by drowning. After human rights activist Jomon Puthenpurackal took the matter to court, the case was transferred to the CBI in 1993. Crucial abrasions were recorded on the right shoulder and above the right ear of Sister Abhaya. The investigation, however, meandered on, and a homicide report was filed by the CBI only in September 1996.
Twelve years later, in 2008, the CBI recorded the arrests of two Catholic priests, Fr Thomas Kottoor and Fr Jose Puthrukkayil, and a nun, Sr Sephy. The CBI counsel told the Kerala High Court that Sr Abhaya, in the early morning hours of March 27, 1992, had stumbled upon the two priests and the nun in a ‘compromising’ position.
Fearing that they would be outed before the church, the prosecution alleged, Sr Sephy, in a fit of rage, hit Sr Abhaya with an axe and the three of them pushed the nun into the well while she was still alive. The prosecution informed the court that the accused had gone to numerous lengths to destroy the evidence in the case and hide their sexual relations.
While Fr Kottoor and Sr Sephy have been presently charged by the CBI on various counts including murder, destruction of evidence and criminal conspiracy, Fr Puthrukkayil was let off by a CBI trial court in 2018 on finding no evidence against him in the case.
In the almost 30 years that the case trial has gone on for, several of the 177 witnesses have either died or turned hostile.
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