Kerala cyanide deaths: Police found Jolly hard to crack, trained to deceive
The chilling drama unfolded in Ponnamttom House in Koodathayi, a small hamlet near Kozhikode in north Kerala. And the three-storey traditional ‘tharavad” model house (extended family dwelling) stands testimony to the crime that unfolded after 17 years.Updated: Oct 07, 2019 21:58 IST
All six deaths were “natural” till the police arrested three people who allegedly executed the slow cyanide killings in north Kerala in a span of one and a half decades. It is difficult for people in north Kerala to believe that the woman next door, 47-year-old Jolly Joseph, allegedly plotted these killings with the help of her friends and concealed it for a long time without an iota of suspicion.
After the initial arrests, including Jolly, Kozhikode (rural) superintendent of police KG Simon said: “Good, at least we arrested her now.” He invoked the name of “Doctor Death”, Harold Shipman, the UK doctor who was convicted of killing 15 of his patients and suspected to have murdered more people. He was indirectly referring to Jolly’s alleged plan to do away with two more relatives. Harold Shipman had committed suicide in 2004 and many horror films were made based on his life.
“We have read about Harold’s case. Personally, I feel this case is similar to that,” the police officer, who is also a President’s medal winner, said in the briefing. After these silent murders came to light, the son of a late Congress leader has also alleged that his father, who had some real estate dealings with Jolly, died under similar circumstances in 2016.
“After visiting her house to discuss some issues he reached home in the night. He looked worn out. Suddenly he vomited blood and collapsed,” his son M Rohith, piecing together his father’s final moments said. Investigators said they started collecting evidences in the case to corroborate the crime. In all seven cases, police suspect Jolly was the prime mover and she was the only person present during all the deaths. Interestingly, these deaths have eerie similarities-- all the victims died after taking food or cold drinks and the only person, who was present during all these deaths was Jolly.
The chilling drama unfolded in Ponnamttom House in Koodathayi, a small hamlet near Kozhikode in north Kerala. And the three-storey traditional ‘tharavad” model house (extended family dwelling) stands testimony to the crime that unfolded after 17 years. The final nail in the coffin came after one of the sons of late Tom Thomas, Roji Thomas who is settled in the US, raised a suspicion about the mysterious deaths and filed a police complaint. The officer said it took two months for his team to unravel the plot and Jolly was tutored well by someone and she was hard to crack.
How the drama unfolded in Ponnamttom House:
The first to die was Annamma Thomas, a retired teacher, who was running Ponnamttom House in 2002. After her sudden death, her husband, a retired headmaster who owned reasonable property, filed a complaint against a leading private hospital in Kozhikode saying she had done a complete health checkup three days prior to her death and no heart ailment was detected.
“After examining hospital records we found that she had no history of heart ailments. But Jolly, her daughter-in-law then, forced people to believe it was heart failure,” said SP Simon adding in all cases heart attack was the main cause.
The second death took place six years later in 2008. The family patriarch, Tom Jose died under similar circumstances and nobody suspected any foul play this time also. Jolly’s first husband Roy Thomas was the next to fall in 2011. His uncle Mathew Manjadiyil, brother of Annamma, was the first to suspect foul play and insisted on a post-mortem.
The police said in the autopsy some poisonous substances were found in his stomach and Jolly conveniently dubbed it as a suicide. Sensing a threat from uncle Manjadiyil, he was also done away with in a similar manner in 2014.
Two years later, another relative Sily, and her one-year-old girl child Alphine died under similar circumstances. Some of the relatives got suspicious after Jolly married Sily’s first husband Shaju Scaria after a few months of her death. The police said Scaria repeatedly said he was not aware of her wrong doings. He was let off on Monday after eight-hours of interrogation. “He was asked to appear after two days. He is under observation,” the SP said.
Jolly had managed to dodge the law and their relatives for long but it ended on Saturday when she and two others_ her friend M Mathew who arranged for potassium cyanide and a jewellery worker Praju Kumar who supplied the poisonous substance were arrested for allegedly serving cyanide-laced food to murder the victims.
On a fake job for 14 years:
Jolly Thomas was popular in her parish as she led a fairly hectic social life. Her relatives said she maintained a close bond with the local parishioners and other sections of the society. She was at the forefront of many other social activities as well. People in her parish said she was religious and never missed the Sunday mass and other functions.
One of her distant family members, P Elizabeth, recalled that Jolly appeared composed while attending the funeral of almost all family members. She, in fact, led the post-burial ceremonies without giving away anything, she recalled. “She was composed and took turns to console others,” she said.
Interestingly she even passed herself off as a professor at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) Calicut. When one of her relatives tried to crosscheck her claim and went to the NIT, he found her at the library sitting among fat books. She always ensured her physical presence at NIT when her family or friends wanted to meet her on the campus. She spun story after story to hide her crime.
The police later found that Jolly, a commerce graduate, was using a fake entry card of the premier technology institute. She even explained away the fact that she owned a beauty parlour in Mukkom, a small town in Kozhikode district, by telling others it was just one of her hobbies. Police said she used to manage her entry in NIT with her fake card and dodged authorities saying she was a mere visitor.
CPI (M) expels party leader
In a related development, the ruling CPI (M) has expelled Koodathayi local committee secretary K Manoj from the party for allegedly helping Jolly to fudge the will of the family head late Tom Jose. “His role invited enough embarrassments to the party,” the Kozhikode district committee said.
Earlier the investigation team had questioned Manoj several times. During investigation, police found that Jolly had flaunted enough political connections to hide her crime graph.