A Catholic priest and a nun were sentenced to life imprisonment by a special CBI court in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday in connection with the sensational Sister Abhaya murder case. Notably, the verdict came after around 29 years of the incident in which the victim, 21, was brutally murdered and her body dumped inside a well of a convent in Kottayam in 1992.
While the prosecution had demanded a death sentence for the accused, the court awarded life sentence to Father Thomas Kottoor and Sister Sephy. The court also imposed a fine of Rs 6.5 lakh on Kottoor and Rs 5 lakh on Sephy. Kotoor was imposed fine for murder, destruction of evidence and trespassing whereas Sister Sephy was imposed fine for murder and destruction of evidence.
The prosecution, while demanding a death penalty, had argued that it was a rare case where a priest and nun joined hands to murder another nun.
Probe in the Sister Abhaya murder case
The victim, a member of the St Joseph’s Congregation, was a pre-degree student at BCM College in Kottayam when the incident happened. The local police and the crime branch had termed the incident as suicide and it took four CBI probes and a series of judicial interventions to cast away their theory.
The probe headed by then CBI Kochi unit DSP Nandakumar Nair concluded that Abhaya’s was a cold-blooded murder committed by two priests and a nun to cover-up their illicit relationship.
The CBI finding was that Abhaya had gone to the kitchen of the convent for fetching water and happened to see Fr Thomas Kottoor, Fr Jose Poothrikkayil and Sister Sephy in a compromising position. Fearing for their reputation, Sephy bludgeoned Abhaya with an axe and threw her into the well with the help of the two priests.
The case had created quite a furore as fingers were pointed at the Church authorities for trying to shield the accused clergymen and the nun. The Church, on its part, maintained that the CBI allegations and arrests of the priests and the nun were intended to damage its image. It tried to mobilise the faithful against the central agency’s ‘highhandedness’.
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