Kerala nun murder case: Witness says she was forced to retract her statement
One of the witnesses in the 27-year-old case of the murder of Catholic nun Sister Abhaya said in a court on Tuesday she was forced by church authorities and others to not to depose against the accused.
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 the Central Bureau of Investigation (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.
P Thresyama, a college teacher who taught Sister Abhaya, also said she stood with truth to ensure justice for the nun who was killed at the age of 18. She also said before the CBI court that many students had complained about the behaviour of the main accused Father Thomas Kotoor.
“I am spinster so I don’t have to care about my family. Had I been married I would have retracted long ago. There were concerted efforts to run me down but I withstood them and told the investigating agency and the court what I know about the incident,” she said while speaking to reporters after coming out of the court.
Her deposition is a great relief for the prosecution and investigating agency (CBI) as five out of 12 witnesses have already turned hostile in the case.
She said in the court that after hearing about Sister Abhaya’s death she went to the convent to see the body and saw a deep cut on her face. She said though she told the police and others about the cut, nobody took her seriously.
“It was one of the most scandalous cases. I wish she should get justice. The track record of some of the accused was not so good. Some girl students had complained to me about the behaviour of Father Thomas Kotoor,” she said.
Kerala’s longest murder probe has witnessed many twists and turns in 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 “accused were innocent”.
During the investigation, Sister Sefi had alleged that CBI had conducted a virginity test on her without her consent. But the probe agency contended that “she had used modern techniques in medical science to tamper with the evidence.” The church and women groups had condemned the CBI accusing it of violation of rights. But the CBI claimed that she had allegedly undergone hymenoplasty to restore her virginity.
Last year, the court had held the crime branch’s former superintendent of police KT Michael an accused of 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.
Initially, 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 the 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. Later, one of them was let off.
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.