The Central Bureau of Investigation Special Court today pronounced its verdict on the 28 year old Sister Abhaya case. The Court stated that Sister Abhaya was murdered by Father Thomas Kottoor and Sister Sephy
On March 27, 1992, 21-year-old Sister Abhaya was found dead under mysterious circumstances in the well of Pius X Convent in Kottayam.
On 19 November 2008, three accused including Father Thomas Kottoor, Sister Sephy, and Father Jose Poothrikkayil were arrested. Father Kottoor was a Vicar and taught Sister Abhaya at BCM College, Kottayam, while Sister Sephy, who stayed in the same hostel as Sister Abhaya and was the de facto in-charge of the hostel.
According to the Central Bureau of Investigation, Sister Abhaya was the only witness to ‘some sexual activity’ involving Kottoor, Poothrikkayil, and Sephy, when she went to the kitchen from her hostel room around 4:15 am on March 27, 1992. The accused had allegedly struck a fatal blow to Sister Abhaya’s head and threw her body into the well in order to project it like a suicide.
Following a petition, Jose Poothrikkayil was discharged by the CBI in March 2018. However, the discharge pleas filed by Kottoor and Sephy were rejected.
During the initial stage of investigation, both the Police and Crime Branch officials closed the case with a theory of suicide. The Crime Branch in the meantime claimed that Sister Abhaya had psychological problems to strengthen the suicide theory.
Later, the Court stressed various disparities including the fact that the dog didn’t bark on that particular night, that the residents of the convent did not hear the sound of Sister Abhaya falling into the well and that the kitchen door was latched from outside.
A total of 49 witnesses were examined. Earlier, several inmates of the convent who had given a statement that they witnessed a disturbed kitchen, later turned hostile. Now, the seventh witness in the case, Varghese Chacko, a photographer revealed that he saw nail marks on Sister Abhaya’s neck. He took four photographs of the body, which went missing later, as part of the inquest procedures. He claimed that the missing photographs could have been destroyed.
In 1993, following outrages by the action council and petition by human rights activist Jomon Puthenpurackal, the case was transferred to CBI.