A day after a CBI court in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram pronounced a catholic priest and a nun guilty of the murder of Sister Abhaya, first accused Father Thomas Kotoor was sentenced to double life term on Wednesday. Third accused Sister Sephy too has been sentenced to life imprisonment in the case that goes back to 1992.
Both accused Thomas Kotoor and Sister Sefi were found guilty of murder (Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code), Section 449 (house trespassing to commit a crime) and Section 201 (destroying evidence) and other sections of the IPC.
In 1992, 19-year-old Sister Abhaya, a plus-two student, was found dead in the well of the Pious X Convent in Kottayam. The case was initially dismissed as a suicide by the state police and crime branch, but the CBI later concluded that it was murder. In 2009, the CBI charge-sheeted Catholic priest Thomas Kottoor and Sister Sefi in the case.
In 1993, the case went to the CBI after a human rights activist took the matter to the court. In its first report in 1996, the CBI said it was a suicide case but a year after it said in its second reprot that it was a homicide.
In 2008, the CBI submitted its third report charging two Catholic priests, Father Thomas Kottoor and Father Jose Poothrukayil, and a nun, Sister Sephy with murder, destruction of evidence, criminal conspiracy and other charges. According to the charge sheet, Abhaya was killed because she was witness to some alleged immoral activity involving two priests and a nun. She was attacked with an axe before being dumped in the well, the central agency claimed.
In 2009, all three of them were granted bail. The trial of the came began in 2019 after 27 years.
One of the main witnesses in the case was a small-time robber, Raju. He was on the premises of the convent for stealing areca nuts when the incident took place. He reportedly told CBI officers that he saw two priests and a nun at the convent around the time of Abhaya's death. He later said he was promised many things to own up to the crime and change his statement but he stuck to his testimony.