Koodathayi murders: How the dark hues of a criminal mind unfolded

Kerala cyanide murders: Jolly's plot, partners in crime, potential targets, suspicious deaths and much more...
Jolly Joseph, the prime suspect in Koodathai serial murder
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When a team of police officials and forensic medicine experts opened the burial vaults at St Lourde's Church in Koodathayi and St Mary's Church in Kodencherry - both in Kozhikode district - on October 4, no one expected that it would unravel the mystery behind the serial murders happened in the last 17 years.

Soon the investigators zeroed in on Jolly Joseph, 47, who had forged a document to annexe the property of the deceased. Police got first breakthrough when she confessed to her crime. But they face a daunting task to unearth scientific evidences to corroborate their findings. No wonder, then, that State Police Chief Loknath Behra on Tuesday described it as a 'challenging probe.'

Here is a dossier of all the developments of the serial murders since the police began re-investigation on October 4.

October 4

• Police opened the burial vaults of six persons in Koodathayi and Kodencherry in Kerala's Kozhikode district. Kozhikode Rural Superintendent of Police KG Simon, who is in charge of investigation, did not provide much details. But he provided a valuable clue when he said that all the six died after taking food. It launched the biggest crime investigation by Kerala Police.

• The deceased were: Tom Thomas, his wife Annamma, son Roy Thomas, relative Sily, her daughter Alphine and Annamma's brother Mathew.

• Annamma died in 2002. She collapsed and died after drinking mutton soup.

• Tom Thomas died in 2008 following continuous vomiting.

• Roy Thomas died in 2011. He was found dead inside the toilet. Relatives said he died due to heart attack. But post-mortem report established the cause of death was cyanide poisoning. Kodancherry Police registered a case, but investigation did not make much of a headway.

• Annamma's brother and neighbour MM Mathew died in 2014. He died on a day when his wife had gone home. He collapsed around 3.30pm. Jolly alerted the neighbours about Mathew's condition. He died before he was taken to the hospital. He was the only person who insisted to conduct post-mortem on Roy Thomas. He did not have any major ailments.

• Alphine, two-year-old daughter of Shaju - son of Tom Thomas's brother - died in 2014. Alphine ate bread and meat curry for breakfast on the day of her brother's Holy Communion.

• Shaju's wife Sily died in 2016. Shaju, Sily and Jolly were retuning after participating in a wedding. Shaju went to consult a dentist, while Sily and Jolly waited outside. A few minutes later, Sily collapsed and fell on Jolly's lap. She died before being taken to hospital.

• Shaju married Jolly in 2017. Jolly was the wife of one of the deceased Roy.

• Police and a team of forensic medicine from Kozhikode Medical College collected remains from the burial vaults.

• The bodies were buried at Lourde Matha Church at Koodathai and St Mary's Church in Kodancherry, both in Kozhikode district.

• The officials first opened the vaults in St Mary's Church where Sily and Alphonsa were buried, in the presence of Sily's husband Shaju. The investigation lasted for almost one-and-a-half hours.

• The burial vaults at Lourde Matha Church were opened next, where Tom Thomas, Annamma, Roy Thomas and Mathew were buried.

• The police began re-investigation after preliminary probe by the Police Special Branch SI Jeevan Babu had found discrepancies.

October 5

• Police arrested Jolly Joseph, 47, for the murders. They also arrested jewellery employee and relative M S Mathew (Shaji) and goldsmith Prajikumar, 48 for providing cyanide to Jolly.

• Police zeroed in on Jolly after she tried to annexe Tom Thomas's property with forged documents. Tom's son Rojo Thomas too filed a complaint, raising suspicion about his father's death. Rojo and his sister had earlier raised objections about the property deal.

• Police said Jolly is the prime suspect in all six murders. According to police, Jolly confessed that she gave cyanide-laden food or water to all the dead.

•According to police, Jolly killed mother-in-law Annamma to gain control of the financial dealings. Annamma used to control the finances at home. Annamma fell unconscious immediately after drinking the mutton soup. She was hospitalised once before and her relatives had raised complaint against the hospital authorities.

• Police said Jolly killed father-in-law Tom Thomas to annex the property. Tom had given her the money from the sale of two-acre paddy field. He told her that she would not have rights over the remaining property, which will be divided between his son and daughter. Jolly forged Tom's will, which said the family property should be given to Jolly and her husband Roy.

• Jolly killed Roy after the latter fumed over her friendship with other men, and quarrel became a routine affair. At this time, Jolly thought that she would get all the family property after Roy's death. She mixed cyanide in his rice and moong dal curry.

• Jolly murdered M M Mathew as he was the only person who cried foul over Roy's death. He even demanded post-mortem on the previous deaths. Mathew's wife had gone home that day and Jolly mixed cyanide in his coffee.

• Police said after Roy's death, Jolly wished to marry Shaju (who is the son of the Tom Thomas's brother). She was attracted by Shaju's calm demeanour and his profession as a teacher. Hence she killed Shaju's two-year-old daughter Alphine and wife Sily.

• "It is good that Jolly was arrested now. It appears that she planned several other murders," said Kozhikode Rural Superintendent of Police K G Simon.

• Police said Jolly tried to kill her husband Roy's sister Renji. The incident happened after Annamma's death. She showed signs of uneasiness after drinking an Ayurvedic tonic given by Jolly. She drank plenty of water to regain consciousness. She confessed to police that she did not suspect foul play at that time and realised that it was a bid on her life only now.

• Jolly had introduced herself as a teacher at the National Institute of Technology at Kozhikode and she had even forged the institution's identity card.

• She is a Commerce graduate, but she told the villagers that she was a B Tech graduate. She told her relatives that she was a commerce teacher at NIT.

• DGP Loknath Behra said that the lapses in the initial stages in the investigation will be looked into.

• Police said Jolly and cyanide-supplier Mathew knew each other for many years. Mathew is the relative of Jolly's husband Roy.

• Mathew confessed to police that he gave cyanide for the first time in 2008. She had asked the chemical to kill dogs. Police believe that Mathew supplied cyanide to kill Annamma in 2002.

October 6

• Police questioned seven more persons, who were suspected to have helped prime suspect Jolly. Police suspect Jolly must have received help to avoid investigation into her husband Roy's death.

• Police said Jolly knew the details of Sily's travel plan on the day of her death.

• Romo, son of Jolly and Roy, said his mother alone cannot execute all the six murders alone. I hope all those involved in the case will be punished. He also said his step-father Shaju never treated him and his younger brother well. He also said his step-father was not at all affected by the deaths of Sily and Alphine.

• Jolly's husband Shaju said he believed that Jolly was working in National Institute of Technology until police questioned her. He said he came to know about traces of cyanide in Roy's body when police came to collect evidences.

• Roy's brother Rojo Thomas alleged that Jolly got help from government officials to forge the documents

October 7

• Jolly's husband Shaju was let off after a few hours of police interrogation. He was released on the basis of strict travel restrictions.

• Media had reported that Shaju confessed to the police that he had assisted Jolly to kill his first wife Sily and two-year-old daughter Alphine. However, Shaju had denied this and added that he was summoned to give further details on the events.

• Roy's sister Renji Thomas said the six murders were unravelled because of 'hand of God'. "I used to consider Jolly as my elder sister. She was friendly with all in the family,” she said.

October 8

The Kerala Police decided to conduct the Mitochondrial DNA analysis of the mortal remains of the dead abroad if it cannot be done in laboratories in India. "Extraction of DNA is a difficult process, especially on older remains. The first death in Koodathayi happened 17 years ago,” said State Police Chief Loknath Behra.

• Kozhikode Rural Superintendent of Police K G Simon said police will demand 15-day custody of prime accused Jolly for detailed questioning

• Shaju said his second wife Jolly was attempting to frame him in the serial murders. "Sily's (Shaju's wife believed to have died due to poisoning) brother insisted me to marry Jolly. Jolly too put pressure on me for marriage, but I told them to wait for a year," he said.

• Shaju said he did not know whether Jolly underwent medical termination of pregnancy. "We went together to meet gynaecologist three times. I did not know the details as I did not go to the doctor's room," he said.

Kerala's cyanide murders: The story so far
Shaju (left), Jolly and Shaju giving last kiss to Sily.

• Jolly was seen giving last kiss to Shaju's wife Sily. Shaju said it was a ploy by Jolly. "By giving the last kiss with me, she prepared the ground for our marriage. It was an act of disrespect to the dead," he said.

Malayala Manorama, quoting police sources, reported that Jolly had attempted to kill five daughters of her her relatives and friends. They frothed at mouth, an indication of poisoning.

• Doubts have been raised over the death of Jolly's friend and Congress worker Ramakrishnan. Police said Ramakrishnan had financial dealings with Jolly.

October 9

• Manorama News reported that the crime branch began a probe to check whether the amulet worn by Roy Thomas caused his poisoning. An astrologer, who lived next to Jolly's parental home in Kattappana in Idukki district, had reportedly advised Roy to wear the amulet.

Kerala cyanide murders
Adv BA Aloor said that he had visited Jolly Joseph in the Kozhikode district jail and agreed to represent her in court.

• Relatives raised doubts over the death of two more youths - Suneesh, 28; and Vincent (Unni, 24) - from the Ponnamattom family. They were the nephews of Tom Thomas, Jolly's father-in-law. Vincent was the son of Tom’s brother Ponnamattom Augustine. He found dead at his house in Kodencherry on August 24, 2002. He was suspected to have killed himself, two days after the death of Tom's wife Annamma. Suneesh was son of Tom’s another brother Dominic. He died in a bike accident near Kuranganpara at Kodencherry around 9pm on January 15, 2008. Relatives had later recovered Suneesh's diary. He scribbled Jolly's name in several pages and also wrote that 'he had been cheated'.

• B A Aloor, an advocate with a reputation for appearing for accused in sensational cases, offered to appear for Jolly. Aloor said he had visited Jolly in the jail. Advocates at Thamarassery had refused to represent Jolly and Prajikumar. Another accused, M S Mathew, managed to find a lawyer from Kozhikode.

October 10

• Thamarassery Judicial First Class Magistrate sent Jolly to police custody till October 16. No one filed bail application for Jolly on Thursday. The court rejected bail applications of the other two suspects - Mathew and Prajikumar. The two were also sent to police custody.

• In the remand request submitted to the court, the police listed Jolly's four murder motives for killing her first husband. These included Roy's alcohol addiction, his belief in superstitions, his questions on Jolly's illicit relationship, and to marry someone with a regular income.

October 11

• Jolly Joseph was brought to the Pannamattom house - where she allegedly poisoned three persons to death - for evidence collection. Jolly's former in-laws Tom Thomas, Annamma and her first husband Roy were found dead inside Pannamattom house. 

• After the evidence collection at Ponnamattom, she was taken to Shaju's house. M S Mathew and Prajikumar, the other two accused in the case were also brought to the house for the evidence collection.

• Jolly's relatives hand over her mobile phones to police.

• Manorama News reported that Jolly told investigating officials that she had mixed cyanide in alcohol to kill Mathew Manjadiyil, who was the uncle of her first husband. She told police that both of them had drinks together even two days before the murder.

• She told police that she got two bottles of cyanide from her relative MS Mathew – who was also arrested for conspiring in the murders.

• She told police that she used cyanide to kill four of her six victims and pesticide was used to eliminate Annamma on August 22, 2002.

October 12

• Kerala Police chief Loknath Behra admitted that the case is a very challenging one as there is a gap of 14 years between the first and the sixth alleged killing.

• The police registered separate cases for each of the six murders. Initially, it was decided to probe the case of Roy Thomas' unnatural death that was registered at the Kodenchery police station in 2011. However, based on legal advice, it was decided to file FIRs for the other five cases.

• The brother of one of the six persons died in the Koodathayi serial murder case alleged that his sister Sily was murdered with the knowledge of her husband Shaju Sakharias.

October 13

• The police have questioned Thengumkudy Johny, the brother-in-law of prime suspect Jolly in Idukki. Johny is married to Jolly's sister. Johny was questioned after receiving information that Johnny had helped Jolly to forge a fake will to take over the property of Roy’s family

• The investigating team has summoned Jolly’s second husband Shaju again for interrogation.

• Kozhikode Rural SP KG Simon told reporters that Jolly was expecting her arrest. “Jolly had travelled to Thamarassery and met her lawyer a day before her arrest. They discussed how a defence could be put up. It was based on the lawyer’s advice that Jolly did not confess on the day of her arrest,” he said.

• Co-accused in Koodathayi serial killings, M S Mathew, reportedly told the police that he had given two bottles of alcohol and Rs 5,000 to another accused Prajikumar for procuring the cyanide.

• The police carried out raids at the house and shop of a local Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) leader, who was linked to Jolly. The house of Muslim League Omassery panchayat vice-president and unit president V K Imbichymoy and his son's shop were raided. In the raid, Jolly's ration card was found from the shop at Koodathayi market.

October 14

• The police have found the cyanide kept in a bottle that was hidden among old utensils and wrapped in clothes at the house of Ponnamattom family during an evidence collection on the night of Oct 14. Jolly had told the police earlier that she had hidden an article, which was crucial to the case, in the house. Based on this, the police conducted another evidence gathering along with Jolly at the house in the night before the end of her custody period the next day.

• Jolly revealed that she had planned to commit suicide by taking cyanide if she was caught in the act.

• The cops also questioned Jolly's second husband Shaju and his father Sakharias for 10 hours and let them off. Sakharias reportedly told the cops that both he and his son had no role in Jolly's wrongdoings.

October 15

• The police recorded the statements of complainant Rojo Thomas over the serial deaths in his family. As per the probe team's instructions, Rojo arrived in Kerala from the US on Oct 14. Rojo, who arrived at the Cochin International Airport at Nedumbassery, stayed at his sister Renji's house at Vaikom in Kottayam district with police escort. He came to Vadakara on Oct 15 to meet the investigators. The two children of Roy and Jolly were also present at Renji's house.

• Rojo reveals that Jolly wanted him to withdraw the police complaint and adds that the inconsistencies in Jolly's statements with the post-mortem report raised his suspicion.

• Sakharias, Jolly's current father-in-law claimed she had cheated the family by feigning love.

• Sily's relative, V D Xavier told Manorama News that an investigation has to be held into whether Jolly murdered Sily for her 40 sovereigns of gold ornaments.

October 17

• Anamma, late Mathew Manjadiyil's wife refutes Jolly's statement that he consumed liquor with Jolly. Jolly had told the police that they consumed liquor two days before the murder during the evidence collection at Ponnamattom House.

October 18

• Rani, a woman who is reportedly a 'close friend' of Jolly appears before the Special Investigation Team at Vadakara.  The police had earlier found several photographs of Jolly with her from the mobile phone seized from the former soon after her arrest.

•Jolly's statement to the police shows that she had visited Coimbatore and Chennai 11 times on the pretext of teacher training. Two persons -- Jolly's teacher-friend and relative M S Mathew -- were along with her at different times during her Tamil Nadu trips. The purpose of the visit was to see plots and buy clothes.

• Jolly who had been in custody for her first husband Roy's death, is arrested over Sily's death.

October 19

• Court remands all three accused in Koodathayi case till Novemeber 2.

October 20

• Case files on Koodathayi murders submitted to Thamarassery magistrate court a day after it came to light that the documents were not submitted to the court on time.

• Sily's 16-year-old son blames Jolly for his mother's death and accuses her of mistreating him.

October 21

• Media reports surface that Jolly had swindled huge amounts of money from businessmen for real estate deals. Many of her creditors have told the investigators that she evaded them but they did not want to press charges due to the public glare in the case.

October 22

• Renji tells the police that her mother Anamma's gold ornaments and diary went missing three days after her mother's death.

• K Hyder, an advocate from the legal service panel has been entrusted to appear for her in the Sily murder case.

• BA Aloor will not appear for the accused as announced earlier. Jolly had wrongly considered the lawsuit to be a part of free legal aid.

October 23

• Police sources confirm that Jolly killed Sily as the latter was against her financial dealings and interaction with Shaju.

(Editor's note: This dossier will be updated to include latest developments)

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