The 16-year-old Sister Abhaya murder case took yet another dramatic turn on Tuesday with a former police officer who had first investigated the case allegedly committing suicide.
VV Augustine was found dead, a gash on his right hand, in his house on the outskirts of Kottayam. The police recovered a suicide note from the site in which the retired police officer blamed the Central Investigation Agency (CBI) for his death. He had been summoned to a meeting with CBI officials at the local PWD rest house just the day before.
“The exact cause of death will be ascertained on Wednesday after the inquest but we suspect it to be suicide,” a senior officer of Kottayam told HT.
Augustine, who was the assistant sub-inspector of Kottayam West Police Station, had prepared the first information report in the case way back in 1992. One of the first to reach the crime scene, the Pious Ten Convent, it was alleged that he was involved in the destruction of crucial evidence. Having made a breakthrough in the case a week back with the arrest of two priests and a nun, the CBI was reportedly planning to include Augustine in the accused list.
However, the CBI said the meeting with Augustine a day before his death was just to seek his “assistance in the case since he was the first IO of the case”. In a press release issued on Tuesday, the agency said he had been called in on Sunday and Friday too for the same reason. The release also clarified that “he was not a suspect at present; the CBI is surprised by the sudden death, and his death is likely to hamper the investigation”.
Augustine had undergone narco-analysis and other tests in connection with the case. He had also moved the high court, fearing arrest.
After 16 years of investigation by at least six teams, the CBI had made the three arrests — Fathers Thomas Kottoor and Jose Poothrikkayil and Sister Sefi — last week. In the course of the investigation, the agency questioned many, including Kottayam Arch-Bishop Mar Mathew Moolakat. A shocked Church has rallied behind the accused and on Sunday read out a pastoral letter exhorting believers to pray for the arrested.
Sister Abhaya (21) was found dead in the well of the convent in Kottayam on March 27, 1992. Initially, the state police and crime branch dismissed it as a case of suicide. Later, the case was handed over to the CBI, which concluded that it was a case of homicide but failed to find the guilty. Its repeated attempts to close the case failed with the high court handing over the case to a new CBI team last month.
(With inputs from HTC, Delhi)