Sister Abhaya murder case: Witness turns hostile, denies earlier statement to CBI
One of the witnesses in the 27-year-old case of the murder of Catholic nun Sister Abhaya retracted her earlier statement to the Central Bureau of Investigation on the first day of the trial in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram on Monday.
Sister Abhaya, a Class 12 student, was found dead in a well on the premises of the Pious X Convent in Kottayam on March 27, 1992. It was initially dismissed as a case of suicide by the state crime branch but CBI later concluded that it was a murder.
The probe agency 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 in 2008. Another accused, Father Jose Poothrukayil, was let off by the CBI court last year after it found there was no evidence against him.
Three witnesses were summoned for examination on the first day of the trial in the special CBI court in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday and out these two have died.
Sister Anupama, who shared a room with Sister Abhaya at the convent, denied in a special CBI court that she gave a statement to the central probe agency and said she did not see or hear anything on the night the nun was killed.
Following her statement, the court declared her hostile.
In her earlier statement, Sister Anupama said she had seen Abhaya’s footwear and habit (a religious headgear) in the kitchen of the convent. She had also said she heard a thud sound from the well of the convent.
Kerala’s longest murder probe has witnessed many twists and turns in the last 27 years.
According to the CBI charge sheet, Sister Abhaya got up early to study and went to the kitchen to wash her face. The agency said she reportedly witnessed two priests and a nun in a “compromising position” and was killed fearing that she might spill the beans.
The agency said she was first attacked with an axe and later dumped in the well. Though the sensational case created enough ripples in the state, the church stood by the accused saying “they were innocent”.
Last year, the court had held former crime branch superintendent of police KT Michael an accused for allegedly destroying evidence. Michael had initially probed the case and concluded that it was a clear case of suicide. Sister Abhaya’s uniform and diary were submitted in a local court as exhibits from the crime scene. But these were allegedly destroyed before the CBI took up the case.
The local police investigated the case and they came to the conclusion that it was a case of suicide. The crime branch also shared the same view. The case was then handed over to CBI following a hue and cry.
The central agency also filed three reports in the case. It said in its first report that it was a case of “homicidal suicide”. But this report was rejected by the court which ordered a fresh investigation.
In the second report, the agency said it could not establish beyond doubt whether it was a suicide or murder. In the last report, filed in 2008, it said it was a murder and arrested the two priests and a nun.
The case was delayed inordinately due to many reasons. There were allegations that a senior Congress leader from the state and a former judge of the Supreme Court had tried to scuttle the investigation.