Trial begins in 27-year-old Abhaya murder case

Sr Abhaya

Thiruvananthapuram, July 11, 2019: The trial in the 27-year-old case of Sister Abhaya murder finally began at the CBI special court in Thiruvananthapuram on July 11.

Facing trial in the case are Catholic priest Father Thomas M. Kottoor, the first accused, and Sister Stephy, the third accused.

Since Stephy was not present in the court when it commenced business on July 11, the case was postponed to August 5 with the court pointing out that there should be no more delays.

The second accused in the case, another Catholic priest Jose Poothrikkayil, however, was discharged by the same court last year.

It was in April this year that the Kerala High Court said that Father Kottoor and Sister Stephy will have to undergo trial.

A bench headed by Justice Sunil Thomas gave the order after considering the discharge plea filed by both the accused. In March 2018, the accused had filed a discharge petition in CBI Special Court saying that evidence against them was fabricated. But the CBI court had then dismissed the discharge plea. It was following this that the two accused had challenged it in the High Court.

Abhaya, a resident of the Pius X convent in Kottayam, was found dead in the well within their compound on March 27, 1992.

The case has dragged on this far with, initially, both the Crime Branch and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) dismissing it as a suicide, but public activist Joemon Puthenpurackal formed an Acton Council and pursued the case.

The turnaround came after Puthenpurackal managed to get the case reopened another time, following which the 13th batch of CBI officials arrested the three accused, including Poothrikkayil on November 19, 2008.

Poothrikkayil was formerly a Malayalam professor at the Kottayam college where Abhaya studied, while Kottoor was the diocesan chancellor of the Catholic Church at Kottayam, and Stephy, a resident of the convent where the incident took place.

The three accused secured bail on January 1, 2009.

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