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Cause of Indian priest’s death in Scotland remains a mystery

Martin Xavier Vazhachira, 33, was found dead on June 23 in West Barns, near Dunbar.

world Updated: Jul 03, 2017 21:00 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Indian priest dies in Scotland,Martin Xavier Vazhachira,Syro-Malabar community
Martin Xavier Vazhachira arrived in Scotland in July 2016 for postgraduate studies in the University of Edinburgh (in picture)(Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

The cause of the death of Indian priest Martin Xavier Vazhachira in Scotland remains unknown, nearly two weeks after his body was found on a beach in East Lothian, but officials said authorities were giving “full priority” to investigating the case.

Vazhachira’s body is likely to be sent to his home state of Kerala later this week.

Anju Ranjan, consul general of India in Edinburgh, told Hindustan Times that Scottish authorities will inform the mission on Monday when the body could be taken to India.

Ranjan said the cause of the death remained unknown, but the post-mortem on the body had been completedand some samples had been sent to the Criminal Investigation Department of Police Scotland. The mission was in touch with Vazhachira’s family. She added that the authorities were giving “full priority” to the case that is being keenly followed in the Syro-Malabar community here and elsewhere. All formalities needed to be completed for a thorough investigation before the body could be released, officials said.

Vazhachira, 33, was found dead on June 23 in West Barns, near Dunbar. He was ordained as a priest of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate in Kerala in 2013, and arrived in Scotland in July 2016 for postgraduate studies in the University of Edinburgh. He served in Catholic parishes in Falkirk and others places in Scotland. Several priests from Kerala, Nagaland, Mizoram and other states have moved to Britain in recent years to serve in parishes.

Local reports said an alarm was raised after Vazhachirafailed to show up to celebrate Mass with the parish community of St John the Baptist, Corstorphine, where he was the administrator.

“The news of Fr Martin Xavier’s death comes as a great shock and a great sadness to all those who knew him and loved him,” Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews & Edinburgh told the Scottish Catholic Observer (SCO).

“Our thoughts and, more importantly, our prayers are with him and with all his loved ones in both Scotland and India. May he rest in peace.”

The Syro-Malabar community in Scotland has been especially in grief: “It’s a big shock for them, because first of all he’s a priest belonging to that community and also the same area,” Sebastian Thuruthippillil, parish priest of St Joseph’s Church in Whitburn and a chaplain to Scotland’s Syro-Malabar community, told the SCO.

“It’s (also) big news there in India; people are really shocked,” he added.

First Published: Jul 03, 2017 20:57 IST