The cracking of Abhaya murder case is an eye-opener
ABHAYA MURDER CASE
Deccan Herald, 21/11/2008
Nailing culprits an uphill task
The CBI which arrested two priests and a nun in the Sister Abhaya murder case faces an uphill task in securing credible evidence to nail the culprits 16 years after the crime was committed
The Kottayam diocesan vigilance council of the Knanaya Catholic Church, which runs the Pius X Convent in Kottayam, has refused to accept the theory that the CBI has zeroed in on fresh evidence in the case. It is the statement of Sanju P Mathew who lives next to the convent that is believed to have triggered the arrests. As pointed out by the diocesan vigilance council, the earlier teams of the CBI had also questioned Mathew.
However, they could extract nothing that would have facilitated the arrests. As reported earlier, not a shred of solid evidence remains in the case since even the nun's attire, her diary and the last photographs of her body have been destroyed by the police.
Mathew is believed to have seen the scooter of the first accused Father Kottur at the convent in the wee hours of the fateful day in 1992 when Abhaya was killed. He also noticed the scooter disappear in the morning. Mathew is believed to have stated told the CBI that Fr Kottur was a frequent visitor to the convent. The CBI believes that Father Kottur and Sister Sephy were having a sexual encounter in the kitchen of the convent that night when Abhaya came down accidentally to take water and found what was going on. Second accused Father Jose Puthrukayil was also around. There was a physical struggle in the kitchen and Fr Kottur hit Abhaya with a steel rod when she collapsed. Her body was later taken by the three of them and dropped into the well.
These graphic details had been revealed by all the three accused in the narco-analysis test conducted at CFL Bangalore. However, such was the extent of the alleged cover-up that the police FIR did not mention any indication of a physical struggle in the kitchen and even the post mortem report did not mention the nun's head injury. A 30-member team of the CBI led by DIG Kandhaswamy began questioning the accused as well as several other witnesses who were residents of the convent in 1992.
The CBI may also chargesheet several State police officials including former Crime Branch SP K T Michael, who played a key role in systematically destroying evidence in the case.
Pursuit of justice
Deccan Herald Editorial 21/11/2008
The cracking of Abhaya murder case is an eye-opener
The arrest of three suspects in the Abhaya murder case in Kerala, 16 years after the murder took place in a convent in Kottayam, marks a bright spot in the pursuit of justice. The case had been given up as unsolvable by different investigating agencies and the breakthrough achieved now is almost a miracle. The body of the young nun was found in a well in the convent in March 1992 with marks of injury but the state police and the crime branch had closed it as a case of suicide. Pressure from the public and judicial intervention revived the case and it was transferred to the CBI. The CBI also recommended closure of the case thrice, though it found the death was a case of murder. One conscientious police officer had even taken voluntary retirement, unable to bear the pressure from interested sections that wanted to bury the case. Thirteen senior CBI officials and their teams have investigated it in succession and now it seems there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
The case had hit a blackhole because all evidence had been systematically destroyed, witnesses and informants bought over and investigators compromised. The history of the investigation became a diary of failures and an infamous testament to the pressure and influence that was brought to bear on the system to keep the lid firmly over truth. It was a sustained campaign by the parents, civil society and the media and the active interest taken by the judiciary that kept the investigation alive all these years. It was a murder mystery that touched the conscience of the people and those who pursued it derived strength from the moral conviction that justice would finally prevail.
The names of the suspects had figured in the case from the beginning. The CBI has now reported that it has clear and fresh evidence which will lead to successful prosecution of the case. But considering its history, the arrests might mean only the end of one phase. It will be an equally difficult task to pursue the case to the end, fighting the same forces that tried to scuttle it. The investigators also, who actively connived in the cover-up, need to be proceeded against. There are many other cases in the country which are in limbo or have been written off for the same reasons as in the Abhaya case. The message from the breakthrough in the case is that the ends of justice cannot be defeated even in impossible circumstances if public interest and judicial support go together
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