Six days after Bishop Franco Mulakkal was granted bail by the Kerala High Court, a witness in the Kerala nun-rape case who had testified against the Bishop was found dead in his church on Monday. Father Kuriakose Kattuthara of St. Mary’s Church in Dasuya had stood in solidarity with the nuns and given his statement to the Kerala police. Following Fr. Kuriakose’s death, his brother and sister-in-law who suspect foul play in the death tell TNM that Father Kuriakose was attacked once and threatened several times after he testified against the Bishop.
“He told us that he had received death threats several times. His house and car were attacked with stones and damaged by a mob once. Another time, Bishop Franco Mulakkal had visited his church and spoken against him to his parishioners. Father was not around then. In his final call to us last week, Father Kuriakose said that if Bishop Franco gets bail, his death would be imminent, and asked us to pray for him,” Jose Kattuthara, Fr. Kuriakose’s brother recounts.
Jose who works in a restaurant in Alappuzha and his wife Elsamma filed a complaint with the Cherthala police on Monday asking that Fr. Kuriakose’s autopsy should be done in Kerala, categorically stating that they do not trust the Jalandhar police.
“We have no faith in Jalandhar police and want the autopsy to be done in Alappuzha. They are deliberately making it seem like a natural death. We feel this is the result of Fr. Kuriakose testifying against Bishop Franco and standing by the nuns,” Jose said.
The 62-year-old deceased father had been under the Jalandhar diocese for the past 33 years.
Father Kuriakose was a vocational teacher at the Jalandhar diocese, had also taught the survivor nun and the other nuns who protested for justice. Prior to his death, Father Kuriakose had given a statement against Bishop Franco Mulakkal to the Kerala police in the rape case of a nun from Missionaries of Jesus. His brother, Jose Kattuthara, told Mathrubhumi news that he was suspicious about his brother’s death, and alleged that he had been killed for giving a statement against Bishop Franco Mulakkal.
A few versions emerging from the church had claimed that Fr. Kuriakose was a heart patient, but the couple denied this. “Though my brother was a diabetic and BP patient, he had no major health problems,” read the complaint by Jose Kattuthara to the CM of Kerala.
Elsamma adds that here brother-in-law knew well how Franco operated.
“Bishop Franco muscled his way into this position, despite several other clergymen being eligible for the post. Everyone knew about the Bishop’s character and we feel Fr. Kuriakose’s death is the result of him standing against the Bishop and testifying for the nuns,” she said.
Speaking to TNM, Sr. Anupama, who led the protest to arrest Bishop Franco said that the father was cornered and accused by several people within the church. According to reports, the assistant appointed to him also happened to be Bishop Franc’s close aide.
On Monday morning, a few nuns at the St. Paul’s convent in Dasuya had found the father unresponsive when they knocked on his door. According to a press note issued by the church, when the church authorities broke open the door Father Kuriakose “was lying down with vomit from the mouth. Immediately he was taken to the Civil Hospital and they declared him brought dead.”
His brother Jose Kuriakose in his letter to the CM, has requested the state to intervene in the issue and take necessary legal action through the appropriate authorities in Jalandhar.
(With inputs from Sandeep Vellaram)