Sister Abhaya: Verdict on case of nun found dead in Kerala 28 years ago

A Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Thiruvananthapuram will on Tuesday deliver its verdict in the case related to the death of a 19-year-old nun, whose body was found in a well at a convent in Kerala’s Kottayam 28 years back in 1992. The state police initially concluded the nun had died by suicide before the CBI took over the case and echoed the same before saying she was murdered after probing the case thrice.

The CBI eventually in 2009 charged Catholic priests Thomas Kottoor, Father Jose Poothrukayil, and Sister Sefi with the nun’s murder, destruction of evidence, and criminal conspiracy. Poothrukayil was exonerated last year after no evidence was found against him.

The CBI charge-sheet in the case surmised that the nun had witnessed “some sexual activity” involving the two priests and she was killed because they feared she may disclose what she had seen. It said the nun was first allegedly attacked with an axe and later thrown into the well.

Also Read: Timeline: Verdict in 1992 Sister Abhaya murder case today

The church stood by the accused, saying they were innocent.

In the first of its three reports in the case, the CBI said the nun’s death was a case of “homicidal suicide.” But the CBI court rejected the report and ordered a fresh investigation. In its second report, the agency said it could not establish beyond doubt whether it was a suicide or murder. In its last report filed in 2008, the federal agency said it was a case of murder and arrested Kottoor, Poothrukayil, and Sefi.

Activist Jomon Puthanpurakkal, who led a campaign seeking justice for the nun, said there were many attempts to sabotage the case. “Many senior politicians and a senior judge had also intervened. They tried their best to weaken the case,” he said.

Verghese P Thomas, who investigated the case, resigned alleging that he was pressurised by his seniors to conclude it was a suicide.

He said the nun was hit by a blunt object on the head. “The nature of injury clearly showed it was an inflicted one,” he told a news channel on Monday.

The CBI in 2018 charged former police superintendent K T Michael with the destruction of key evidence in the case before the Kerala high court stayed the action as a majority of witnesses turned hostile.

In 2008, Sefi filed a complaint against the CBI saying she was forced to undergo a virginity test without her consent. The CBI said she had got a surgical procedure done to prove she was a virgin. Later the court rejected her plea.

Raju, who had entered the convent premises to steal areca when the nun was allegedly murdered, was one of the main witnesses in the case. He told the CBI that he saw two priests and a nun at the convent around the time of the nun’s death. Raju claimed he was promised “many things” to own up to the crime and change his statement.

The nun’s parents, who fought for justice for their daughter, died during the legal battle.

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