Crucial week ahead for Abhaya case

via Pioneer News Service | Kochi published on December 28, 2008

The probe into
and legal procedures over the Sr Abhaya murder case would enter a crucial phase
this week even as the probe team of the CBI collected more evidences against the
three Knanaya Catholic Church personalities and recorded statements from more
witnesses to prove that Sr Abhaya had indeed been murdered at St Pius X Convent,
Kottayam in the wee hours of March 27, 1992.

The Chief Judicial
Magistrate, Ernakulam is to take an immediate decision on the remand of the
three arrested persons, Fr Thomas M Kottoor, Kottayam diocesan chancellor of the
Knanaya Church, Fr Jose Puthrukayil, principal of Church-run St Pius X College
at Rajagiri, Kasaragode and Sr Seffi, a nun at the convent where Sr Abhaya was
murdered. The remand period of the three, arrested on November 19, would end on

However, any decision of the CJM Court, Ernkaulam would depend on
the verdict of Justice K Hema of the Kerala High Court as she is to make a
decision on the bail applications of the three this week. She was to announce
the verdict on December 19, but she sprang a surprise by not doing so even as
the court went into recess for Christmas vacation. There were expectations that
she might call a special sitting for the purpose during the recess, but this did
not happen.

Legal experts said that there was no reason why the CJM Court
would not extend the period of remand for Fr Kottoor, Fr Puthrukayil and Sr
Seffi, the first, second and third accused in the case. The court had several
times said that there were enough evidences against the three to believe that
they could influence the probe if they were released. Moreover, the CBI would be
presenting more evidences once the court sat to consider the issue of extending
the remand.

Sources in the CBI said that the agency had collected more
evidences in the case to prove that Sr Abhaya was murdered, she was murdered by
first striking her in the head with the back of an axe and then throwing her in
the well of the convent and that vital evidences had been deliberately

The CBI during the Christmas vacation had taken statement
from Dr C Radhakrishnan, who had performed the autopsy on Sr Abhaya’s body in
the capacity of police surgeon at the Medical College Hospital, Kottayam.
Radhakrishnan told the investigators that Sr Abhaya could have died in the well
of the convent but she had suffered two massive strikes in the back of her head
before that.

The CBI’s charge against the three church personalities was
that they had struck Sr Abhaya in the head with the back of an axe and had
thrown her in the well. The laboratory reports on the examination of Sr Abhaya’s
organs had suggested Sr Abhaya had died of asphyxiation by water in unconscious
condition. The water found in Sr Abhaya’s stomach had not matched with the
sample taken from the well but the water in her lungs and that in the well had
matched suggesting that she was thrown in the well in unconscious

The CBI team also interviewed SGK Kishore, Revenue Divisional
Officer in Kottayam during 1993, who admitted that he had officially ordered the
destruction of evidences in the case, like Sr Abhaya’s clothes including her
headdress (which was a matter of controversy as it was found on the bolt of a
convent door), her footwear and personal effects found from her room including
her dairy.

Kishore, now the managing director of a Hyderabad-based
company told the CBI that he had ordered burning of these articles as a natural
process, but the CBI was yet to believe this as the order was issued three
months after the agency took over the investigation of the case. The CBI took up
the case in March 1993 and the evidences were burnt in June 1993, leaving room
for suspicion.

There were reports that Kishore had ordered the
destruction of evidences after the State police Crime Branch reported that they
had concluded the investigations. The Crime Branch, and before it the local
police, had concluded that the death of Sr Abhaya was a case of

The CBI also took the statement from Varghese P Thomas, former
DySP, CBI, who was the first agency official to investigate the case and to
decide that the death of the nun was not suicide but could be a case of murder.
He had opted for voluntary retirement allegedly after pressures from higher-ups,
even from the office of then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, became unbearable.

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