Sister Abhaya
Sister AbhayaIANS (File photo)

Father Kottur, nun Steffi found guilty of murdering Sister Abhaya

Thiruvananthapuram, December 22, 2020

In a landmark judgement on Tuesday, a CBI court here, nearly three decades after Sister Abhaya's murder, found two of the prime accused guilty in the "infamous" case that has seen several ups and down and even a third accused set free.

The judge K. Sanalkumar, however, reserved the sentencing on the quantum of punishment for Wednesday for Catholic priest Thomas M. Kottur (first accused) and Steffi (third accused).

The judgement took 28 years to come by.

Varghese P. Thomas, who quit the CBI while he had 10 years of service left, was the first officer who found out that Abhaya was murdered. He burst into tears as he told the media on Tuesday that finally the truth has come out.

Thomas was under duress from his senior officer, who wanted his findings from the murder to be a suicide, which was flatly denied by Thomas. He then quit in disgust.

The second of the prime accused in the case -- another Catholic priest Jose Poothrikkayil, however, had been discharged by the same court in 2018.

Abhaya, an inmate of Pius X convent in Kottayam, was found dead in the well of the convent on March 27, 1992.

The case had dragged on with initially both the Crime Branch and the CBI dismissing it as a suicide. However, public activist Joemon Puthenpurackal formed an Acton Council and pursued the case.

The turnaround in the case happened after Puthenpurackal managed to get the case reopened, following which the 13th batch of CBI officials cracked the case.

The three accused were Poothrikkayil, a former Malayalam professor at the Kottayam college where Abhaya studied; Kottur, the Diocesan chancellor of the Catholic Church at Kottayam, and Steffi, a resident of the convent when the incident took place.

On January 1, 2009, all three accused though had managed to get bail.

Puthenpurackal, said that this is a victory of the people of Kerala and the media and the biggest victory is for the judiciary.

"This CBI court has delivered the real justice and the crucial witness -- Raju, then a petty thief, had stood his firm ground, despite pressure from vested interests.

"He is the happiest person as justice has been delivered. After that incident he stopped stealing and started work as a daily labourer. God has worked in this case, through Raju. I waited for this judgement and even if I die today, I will die as the happiest person," said Puthenpurackal.


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