Two priests, nun held for Sister Abhaya’s murder 16 years ago (Lead)

November 19th, 2008 - 3:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Kochi, Nov 19 (IANS) Two Catholic priests and a nun have been arrested for the 1992 murder of a nun, Sister Abhaya, whose body was found in the well of a convent in Kerala’s Kottayam town, police said Friday.In the first arrests in the case, Father Jose Putarika, a former Malayalam professor at the Kottayam college where Abhaya studied, and Thomas Kottor, the Diocesan chancellor of the Catholic Church at Kottayam, were picked up Tuesday. The third, Sister Seffi, who belonged to the same convent as Abhaya, was arrested Wednesday.

All three, who have been brought to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) office here, had been subjected to a truth serum test in Bangalore last year.

Abhaya, an inmate of Pious X hostel near here, was found dead in the well of the convent March 27, 1992. The CBI concluded in November 1996 that the death was a homicide but the murderer remained untraced. The Kerala Police had earlier dismissed the case as suicide.

Abhaya’s elderly father Thomas said he was happy that the CBI had finally made an arrest.

“We want to know more details… This arrest is going to be a big boost for the closing of the case; don’t worry, if there is a god, the case will be solved and the truth will come out,” Thomas told reporters.

This was the 13th CBI team investigating the 16-year-old murder, after the 12 previous probes failed to crack the case.

The Kerala High Court had last month rapped the investigating agency over the slow progress in its probe and asked the Kerala unit of the CBI to take over.

Public interest in the case was re-ignited in April last year after a newspaper reported that Abhaya’s medical reports were tampered with at a chemical laboratory in Thiruvananthapuram.

Two officials at the laboratory, who are alleged to have tampered with the report, are currently on bail.

The case over the years has generated lot of speculation and publicity, leading to the resignation of a CBI official, Varghese P. Thomas, who had concluded that this was a clean case of murder.

Responding to the arrests, Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan said the way events had unfolded had shown that “some people command a lot of respect but incidents like this prove that this very same people can do otherwise also”.

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