Over the last few days, Kerala has been in the grips of an extraordinary crime saga involving multiple deaths within an extended family in Kozhikode's Koodathai town.
Six people including Tom Jose, his wife Annamma, their son Roy Thomas and 3 others passed away in eerily similar ways between 2002 and 2016. At the centre of these deaths is 47-year-old Jolly Amma Joseph - the former wife of Roy Thomas who is now married to his cousin Shaju.
On Sunday, police officers who had taken Jolly into custody said that she had confessed to killing all 6 of her family members, including her husband Roy and a two-year-old child, by giving them cyanide.
According to the police, Jolly's confession is a blood curdling tale, and is being compared to a 2-decade old account of a British doctor - who is widely regarded as one of the most dangerous serial killers in history.
Speaking to media persons on Sunday, Kozhikode Rural SP KG Simon dodged a question on whether Jolly had other targets she intended to eliminate. However, in his answer, the SP compared Jolly's case to that of Harold Shipman - a British general practitioner who was convicted of murdering 15 of his patients and suspected to have murdered as many as 250.
"I can't tell for sure if she (Jolly) had other targets in mind. But we have all read about Harold's case. I feel like this case also is similar to that," Simon added.
Known by many names - 'Angel of death, doctor death' and the 'good doctor' - Harold Shipman and his crimes had a profound effect on the British medical practice and laws, which were altered after his conviction.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment in February 2000 with the judge recommending that he never be released from prison.
In 2004, Shipman killed himself on the eve of his 58th birthday while inside his prison cell at Her Majesty's Wakefield prison - the largest high security jail in the United Kingdom.
Jolly Amma Joseph's crimes unfolded in the small town of Koodathai in Kerala, where she allegedly poisoned six of her family members over the course of 14 years. Though the police have not disclosed the hard evidence in their possession, they say that Jolly has confessed to the killings.
Twenty years ago, Shipman too had carried out most of his murders in the small towns of West Riding in Yorkshire, and Hyde in Manchester, United Kingdom, where he worked in 3 different hospitals.
Back in 1998, the then 52-year-old Shipman was believed to have killed an unconfirmed number of patients by administering lethal doses of diamorphine or heroin to them.
While Shipman's modus operandi was overdosing his victims with heroin. In Jolly Joseph's case, cyanide was the preferred toxin say police.
In 2011, cyanide traces were first detected in Jolly's husband Roy Mathew when he passed away mysteriously. However, she brushed aside doubts by stating that Roy had financial problems and may have killed himself. A case of suspicious death was registered after this.
Currently investigations have revealed that all of Jolly's victims had consumed food immediately before they died- leading to the police confirming that they were all poisoned. In 2002, her first victim - Annamma Thomas, also her mother-in-law - had passed away after drinking mutton soup in her house.
Reasons for murders
Following Jolly's interrogation, Kozhikode police said that she had confessed to different motives for each murdering.While property was the reason in a few murders, anger and passion seem to have been the motives behind other crimes.
Despite going on to become oe the most of the most sensational cases in the world, the UK police could not point to specific reasons for Harold Shipman's murders.
In fact, after his suicide in 2004, families of several of Shipman's victims were left disappointed and devoid of answers. They wanted to know why he committed these murders.
To date, the intent behind Shipman's murders mostly remain an unsolved mystery, except in the case of his last victim - Kathleen Grundy - where money was found to have been the motivating factor.
Grundy died in her house in 1998 and it was Shipman, her doctor, who was the last person known to have visited her.
After murdering her, Shipman had forged a will which excluded Grundy's family and left a significant chunk of her wealth to him. The forgery was detected after a lawyer appointed by Grundy's family suspected the authenticity of the will. Authorities later discovered a typewriter in Shipman's residence which was used to print the fabricated will.
Exhuming bodies to uncover the crime
Like the 6 bodies in Koodathai which was exhumed following suspicions of murder, Kathleen Grundy's remains too was exhumed from her grave following which doctors found traces of diamorphine (heroin) in her body.
In Jolly's case, the mortal remains of six people, including 10-month old Alphine - the child of her current husband Shaju - was exhumed a few days ago. While Alphine was supposed to have choked to death, following much deliberation and facts, the police confirmed that the child's death too showed signs of cyanide poisoning.
Murders detected after several years
Lastly, in both cases - the pattern of murders which exposed the crimes was identified after decades- leading to the loss of many lives.
In Shipman's case, a total of 250 of patients are believed to have died in his hands. However, he was only found guilty beyond reasonable doubt in 15 of those deaths. His crimes were first brought to light by Linda Reynolds of the Donneybrook Surgery in Hyde (where Shipman had practiced), who found an extraordinarily high death rate among his patients.
While investigations in the Koodathai murders are ongoing, authorities and family members failed to notice the pattern in the murders- leading to the loss of 6 lives over 14 years. Jolly and two others have only been booked for Roy Thomas' murder and it remains to be seen if the police can unearth any evidence other than the confessions to tie them to the other deaths.