A special CBI court in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram today delivered its verdict in a 28-year-old case of a nun's murder as it held a priest and a nun guilty of killing her. Sister Abhaya, 21, was murdered and her body was dumped inside the well of a convent in Kottayam in 1992.
Among those convicted is Father Thomas Kottoor, who was a Vicar and taught Sister Abhaya psychology at Kottayam's BCM College. He was also Secretary to the then Bishop. He later rose to be Chancellor of the Catholic Diocese in Kottayam.
The verdict came 28 years after the body of the nun was found in a well of her convent hostel in Kottayam. During the course of the hearing, the HC had allowed the discharge petition of Father Puthrikkayl, the third accused in the case.
Human rights activist Jomon Puthenpurackal, the lone surviving member of the panel that fought to pursue justice in the murder case, said: "Sister Abhaya's case has finally got justice. She will rest in peace. This is a classic example of how no one should think that just because they have power - money and muscle power - they can de-rail justice."
As per the CBI, Sister Abhaya was witness to intimate contacts between Kottoor, another Father, Jose Poothrikkayil, and Sephy on March 27, 1992 as she went from her hostel room to the kitchen at around 4.15 AM.
Between 4:15 AM and 5 AM, the accused allegedly hit Sister Abhaya with a blunt object and threw her body in to the well to cover-up the crime.
Two years ago, Poothrikkayil, one of those initially accused, was acquitted by a special CBI court. However, discharge petitions of the other two - Kottoor and Sephy - were rejected.
The incident was initially labelled as "death by suicide" by police and Crime Branch officials. Amid protests and petitions, the case was transferred to the CBI.
The court pointed to various discrepancies, including the fact that dogs did not bark that night, the fact that the kitchen door was latched from outside and that residents of the convent did not hear the sound of Sister Abhaya "falling" into the well.