Second husband of Kerala’s serial cyanide killer files divorce plea

Shaju Zacharia has said he was unaware of Jolly Joseph’s past. Joseph is accused of murdering six people, including Zacharia’s first wife and daughter, by giving them cyanide over 14 years
Jolly Joseph. (Sourced)
Jolly Joseph. (Sourced)
Published on Aug 31, 2021 05:10 PM IST
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Shaju Zacharia, the second husband of Kerala’s alleged cyanide serial killer Jolly Joseph, has filed a divorce plea in a court in Kozhikode citing her criminal past and mindless cruelty. He has said he was unaware of Joseph’s past. Joseph is accused of murdering six people, including Zacharia’s first wife and daughter, by giving them cyanide over 14 years.

Joseph married Zacharia in 2017 two years before the murders came to light and she was arrested. In his petition filed on Monday, Zacharia said Joseph has a criminal mindset and he was scared of even saying she is his second wife.

Joseph allegedly plotted the murders with the help of her friends. She allegedly executed the slow cyanide killings in Kozhikode’s Koodathayi village between 2002 and 2016. She was planning more murders, according to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that probed the case, when she was arrested.

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The serial murders unfolded after police arrested Joseph, her friend M Mathew who arranged cyanide, and Praju Kumar. Anamma Thomas, a retired teacher, was the first to get killed in 2002. Her husband Tom Thomas died in 2008. Their son and Joseph’s first husband, Roy Thomas, died in 2011, and another relative Mathew M, also a brother of Anamma, died in 2014. Two years later, the first wife and daughter of Zacharia, Sily and Alphine, also died under mysterious circumstances. All deaths had eerie similarities. The only person present during all these deaths was Joseph.

It later came to light that three people, including her sister-in-law, Renji, narrowly escaped after getting immediate medical attention. All deaths were seen to be “natural” until Joseph was arrested. Later, traces of the poisonous substance were found in two bodies after a forensic examination.

During the investigation, the SIT found Joseph falsely claimed to have been a professor at the National Institute of Technology in Kozhikode for 14 years. Among the witnesses in the case are her two children whose statements were recorded before a magistrate. She has been charged with murder, conspiracy, destroying of evidence, and forgery. The trial in the two of the cases against her began this year. Joseph is presently lodged in jail and two years ago she tried to kill herself there by slitting her wrist.


    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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