File photo of Sister Abhaya.
File photo of Sister Abhaya.

After wait of 28 years, verdict in Sister Abhaya murder case tomorrow

Sister Abhaya, a plus-two student, was found dead in the well of the Pious X Convent in Kottayam.
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram | By Ramesh Babu
UPDATED ON DEC 21, 2020 03:34 PM IST

After a wait of 28 years, the verdict in the suspicious death of 19-year-old sister Abhaya in a convent in Kottayam in 1992 will be pronounced by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday.

A day before the crucial verdict in nun murder case, main witness in the case K Rajau, alias Adakka Raju, told a Malayalam news channel Asianet that he was tortured for days together to own up to the crime by police officers.

Raju, a small-time robber, was present on the convent premises when the incident took place. Later, he reportedly told CBI officials that he saw two priests and a nun at the convent under mysterious circumstances. “I suffered a lot. I got big promises to own up to the crime, but I refused to budge. I want truth to come out,” he told the news channel.

The CBI had charge-sheeted Catholic priest Thomas Kottoor and Sister Sefi in the case. They were charged with murder, destruction of evidence, criminal conspiracy and other charges. Another accused Father Jose Poothrukayil was let off by the court last year after it found there was no evidence against him.

Sister Abhaya, a plus-two student, was found dead in the well of the Pious X Convent in Kottayam. It was initially ruled as case of suicide by the state police and crime branch, but the CBI later concluded that it was a murder. Many witnesses had turned hostile during the trial and a flurry of petitions in various courts delayed case proceedings.

According to the CBI charge-sheet, on the day of the incident Abhaya got up early for her studies and went to the kitchen to wash her face. There she reportedly witnessed some alleged two priests and a nun in a compromising position. She was killed fearing that she might tell others, said the CBI. She was first attacked with an axe, the CBI added, and later dumped in the well.

Despite the heat that the case generated, the church stood with the accused saying “they were innocent”.

At first, Kerala police investigated the case and ruled it a suicide. Later, the crime branch also shared the same view. Following a huge uproar, the case was then handed over to the CBI.

The premier investigation agency filed three three reports in the case. It called it a case of “homicidal suicide” in the first report, which was rejected by the court and a fresh investigation was ordered.

In the second report, it said the agency could not establish beyond doubt whether it was a suicide or murder. In the last report it filed in 2008, it said it was a murder and arrested three persons: two priests and a nun.

Later a priest, Jose Poothrukayil, was absolved of all charges before the final trial.

The case was delayed inordinately as it meandered through various levels of the judiciary. Besides the murder case, the court will also deliver its verdict on some of the witnesses who turned hostile.

Last month the Union government had extended the service of CBI SP Nandakumar Nair, who investigated this case, including many others.

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