With two priests and a nun under arrest and more under CBI scanner, the Abhaya murder case has returned to haunt the Catholic church in Kerala.
The Knanya Archdiocese of Kottayam on Sunday came out in support of Father Thomas Kottoor, Father Jose Puthrukayil, and Sister Sephi who were arrested last week.
A pastoral letter issued by Archbishop Mathew Moolekkat demanded a transparent probe into Sister Abhaya’s death. It has asked ‘believers’ to pray for the arrested priests and nun.
“We believe the arrested are innocent. Whoever worked behind her death should be brought before the law. But the investigation into the case should be impartial. The accused should be treated as innocent till their guilt is proved,” says the letter.
The letter recalls that the church was first to demand an independent probe soon the “unnatural death” came to light 16 years ago. However, it did not press for further probe as almost all investigating agencies, including the local police and crime branch, came to a conclusion that it was a suicide.
What baffled the church was that the CBI had grilled former Bishop Kuriakose Kunnassery (80), who was the Archbishop when Sister Abhaya was killed, among others.
While calling for an independent and impartial probe, the pastoral letter clearly indicates that the church isn’t happy with the ongoing probe.
Sister Abhaya (21), a pre-degree student, was found dead in the well of Pius X Convent in Kottayam on March 27, 1992. The state police and crime branch had dismissed it as an act of suicide. Later, the case was handed over to the CBI, which also hit blind alleys on several occasions. After its attempts to close the case failed in the High Court, the CBI reached a conclusion that it was a case of homicide but failed to pinpoint the guilty.
Thereafter, the HC had handed over the case to a new CBI team last month, leading to the arrest of three accused.
The case had witnessed many twists and turns. CBI deputy superintendent Verghese P Thomas, who was investigating the case initially, had resigned, citing political pressures. Later he wrote a book on the murder.