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The Sister Abhaya Murder Case: 21yr Old Nun Thrashed And Drowned By The Hostel Warden And The Father [READ ORDER]

The Kerala High court was informed by the State Government that the convicts were arrested after being on parole for four months

By: Sumaiya Laraib, Al Ameen Law College, Bangalore, Karnataka

The State informed the Kerala High Court that convicts in the Sister Abhaya murder case viz. Fr. Thomas Kottur and Sister Sefi, have been released on parole. Sister Abhaya was killed 28 years ago in the St Pius convent in Kerala’s Kottayam. The case by far became the longest running murder investigation in the state of Kerala. 

The judgment of Thiruvananthapuram CBI found the 21year old nun attacked with an axe. Doctors probing the evidence found that the head injuries were “sufficient to cause death.”  The dead body of the sister Abhaya was dumped in a well to erase the evidence.  

The CBI court held, “The assertion of the prosecution that the accused, in furtherance of their common intention, to cause the evidence to disappear, dumped Sister Abhaya into a well, in order to make it appear that the said injuries were sustained during the fall, have to be inferred.”

The Court identified the place where the nun was killed in the convent and especially where no man is strictly allowed. This implied “nefarious conduct” on the part of Father Thomas Kottoor.

The further statements of inmates revealed that she couldn’t have committed suicide. The fact that on the day of the crime the dogs were of usual nature and didn’t bark prove that it was most probably the act of someone known in the convent.

The CBI court then awarded life imprisonment to the catholic priest and nun accused of murdering Sister Abhaya in 1992. The accused Fr Kottoor was sentenced to a double life imprisonment under two offences – murder and criminal trespass under section 302 and section 449 of IPC.

According to the prosecution, Sister Abhaya saw Kottoor and Sephy in a compromising situation which made them hack her down to death.   

The local police closed the case by concluding it as a suicide case. A case of unnatural death was filed by Sister Leissue, Mother Superior of the Convent.

Following the popular pressure and a legal battle launched by Jomon Punthenpurackal, a human-rights activist, The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in 1993 took on the case. 

The convicts had been released on parole since the outbreak of the second wave of Covid as the prisons department granted parole to over 500 prisoners as part of decongesting prisons.

But, on September 26 the Kerala High Court confirmed that they were admitted back to jail. Since on parole they had been out for a period of about 4 months. Kottoor was lodged at the central prison, Poojappura and Sephy at the Women’s prison, Attakulangara. 

However, the court claimed that the demand for decongesting the prisons was not for the hardcore criminals like the murderers and rapists. 

A single bench of Justice VG Arun had observed, “disheartening to note that criminal proceedings pertaining to a crime of 1992 is yet to attain finality, whether it be by reason of providence or design.” The court had then proceeded ahead with cross-examination of witnesses through video conferencing taking into consideration the coronavirus pandemic. 

The most crucial evidence relied upon by the CBI was the disturbance in the kitchen. The water bottle had fallen down near the fridge with cap possibly open, the veil was found stuck beneath the exit door, the latches inside were unlatched, two slippers of Abhaya were found at different places in the kitchen, and the area hauntingly exhibited an appearance of having had a tussle inside. 

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