Abhaya case: CBI quizzes more nuns as priests file plea in HC

via Pioneer News Service | Kochi published on November 21, 2008

The 30-member CBI team probing the Sr Abhaya murder case on Friday split into different groups to expedite its investigations and to make interrogation of suspects and questioning of prospective witnesses even as Fr Jose Puthrukayi, second accused in the case arrested on Thursday, filed a petition in the Kerala High Court seeking cancellation of the order of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ernakulam, to remand him and the other two co-accused in judicial custody for 14 days continuously.

The CJM Court had on Thursday remanded three Catholic Church personalities — first accused Fr Thomas M Kottoor, second accused Fr Puthrukayil and third accused Sr Seffi, a nun — in CBI custody till December 2 on the ground that the investigation could be influenced if they were left on bail since they were persons with immense social influence.

Sources in the CBI said more arrests in the case were likely in the coming days. The officials continued questioning of the three arrested accused at an unknown camp in Kochi on Friday. The trio would be taken on Saturday or Sunday to the St Pius X Convent in Kottayam where Sr Abhaya was murdered in 1992. The officials had already started collecting evidences on the basis of the depositions from the three church personalities.

On Friday, the CBI officers questioned several persons, including nuns, at Kottayam. They questioned a nun who had been studying with Sr Abhaya during the time of the murder and another nun, who was an associate of Sr Seffi, the third accused. Also there were unconfirmed reports that the CBI had already taken into custody two more persons.

The petition, moved in the High Court by Fr Puthrukayil, principal of church-run St Pius X College, Rajapuram, Kasaragod through lawyer CP Udayabhanu, complained that the CJM Court, Ernakulam had not fulfiled the necessary legal condition while deciding to leave him in CBI custody for 14 days continuously.

On Thursday, the accused had told the court that they should be interrogated only in the presence of their lawyers, but the court turned down the request saying that the CBI needed full freedom in questioning them due to special nature of the case. It also rejected a request for bail for the accused on the ground that this could not be entertained as the accused were influential personalities who could influence the investigations.

In the petition, Fr Puthrukayil said that the CBI had concealed from the CJM Court on Thursday that the three accused had undergone polygraph test, narco-analysis and brain-mapping procedure. He also complained that the remand application filed by the CBI in the CJM Court had not contained information about the role of the accused in the murder and the deposition of the witnesses.

Immediately after arrests, the Kottayam Archdiocese of the Catholic Church had said there were mysteries behind the CBI act against the three church personalities. It contended that the CBI had arrested the trio on the basis of the depositions of a single person, Sanju P Mathew, residing in the house next to the convent in Kottayam. But the CBI said that it had not arrested them on the basis of Sanju’s deposition alone.

Sanju had told the CBI that he had seen Fr Kottoor’s two-wheeler vehicle in front of the convent building on the night of Sr Abhaya’s murder. He said that several nuns of the convent had been living in ways which were not appropriate for the role they had adopted in life. He also told the agency that several of his friends were regular visitors to nuns at the convent.

Sister Abhaya’s body was found in the well of the St Pius X Convent, where she was a nun, on March 27,1992, in the wee hours of the day. The earlier impression, based on the statements by the other nuns at the convent, was that she could had committed suicide due to some mental disorder.

Abhaya, daughter of M Thomas, Areekara, Kottayam, was a second-year pre-degree student at BCM College, Kottayam when she was murdered. The college belonged to the Archdiocese of Kottayam. FR Kottoor, who had now been arrested, was a teacher at the church-owned BCM College, where she was then a second-year pre-degree student.

Initially, the local police wrote the case off as one of suicide based on the post-mortem report. It was believed that they were forced to destroy key evidences such as the nun’s clothes and other personal belongings during the investigation due to external influences.

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