The former church sexton who allegedly stabbed a 52-year-old Catholic priest to death on Thursday in Kerala's Ernakulam district was arrested from a forest on Friday afternoon, police said.
Priest Xavier Thelekkat, a native of Kochi, was attached to the Angamaly diocese of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and was the rector of the Kuruishmala Church. He was allegedly attacked and killed by his former sexton, Jomy, an officer of the church who looked after the maintenance of its buildings and the graveyard.
On Thursday, when the priest was coming down the hill as part of the Kuruishmala pilgrimage, Jomy stabbed the priest several times and fled to the forest, according to the church spokesperson Jimmy.
"It took place at the sixth sector of the pilgrimage around 10.45 am, when the sexton suddenly came in front of the priest and following an argument, stabbed Thelekat," Jimmy said.
The spot, on the hill amidst a forest, is three km from any form of transport.
Thelekat was stabbed in the leg. He was bleeding profusely and although he was rushed to a hospital, he passed away, said Jimmy.
The police with the help of locals had launched a search into the forest and on Friday afternoon, a visibly tired Jomy was spotted in the forests. He was taken into police custody.
The accused will be interrogated and produced before a magistrate on Friday or Saturday.
According to sources, Thelekat had fired Jomy three months ago. Jomy had approached Thelekat a few times thereafter, requesting to be reinstated. However, the priest was not keen to take him back.
Former CPI (M) legislator Saju Paul, who hails from the area, told IANS that he was shocked to hear about the sad incident.