Kottayam: Twenty-five years have passed since the body of Sister Abhaya was found in the well at the Pope Pius X Convent Hostel in Kottayam.
Written off as a suicide by the local police and the Crime Branch, the case took dramatic turns once it was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) following a public outcry.
After investigation by several agencies, the CBI concluded that Abhaya’s death was a classic case of homicidal drowning and filed a charge-sheet against two priests and a nun for the crime in July 2009.
Sister Sephy and two priests, Thomas Kottoor and Thomas Poothrikkayil, were arraigned under section 302 (murder), section 201 (destruction of evidence) and 499 (defamation).
The agency submitted that the two priests had illicit relations with Sister Sephy, which was known to Sister Abhaya, and they decided to kill her after they felt that she would reveal it to someone.
The gruesome murder which shocked society's conscience took place on 27 March, 1992. The incident came to light when the convent authorities alerted the police and the fire force after Abhaya’s sandals were spotted near the well. Her body was fished out and subsequently a case of unnatural death was registered.
After 10 days of preliminary investigations by the local police, the Crime Branch probed the case for 10 months, but both concluded that it was a suicide.
The CBI took over the case on March 29, 1993. Until 1995, the agency too maintained that there was no substantial evidence suggesting that Abhaya was murdered.
On April 7, 1995, the CBI conducted an experimental test using a full-sized dummy of the victim. Based on the findings, the agency established it as a case of homicide. However, the investigators could not determine the perpetrators due to the destruction of evidence and case properties.
The CBI had filed three reports in the special court in Thiruvananthapuram, in 1997, 2000, and in 2006, but each time the court sought further investigation in the case.
Finally, the three accused were arrested on November 19, 2008. The fourth and the fifth accused, V. V. Augustine, assistant sub-inspector who conducted autopsy on the body, and Crime Branch DySP K. Samuel, suspected to be responsible for the destruction of evidence, died during the course of investigation.
The charge-sheet was submitted on July 17, 2009, but even after about eight years, the trial proceedings are still pending before the CBI special court . The three accused are out on bail.