A 48-year-old Christian priest in Kerala, who was arrested on Monday evening for allegedly raping a minor girl, has confessed to the crime, say police.
After successfully managing to hide the crime for months, the police say that Father Robin Vadakkanchery has finally confessed to raping the 16-year-old girl and subsequently impregnating her.
After the police filed a case against him on Saturday, Father Robin was on the run and was arrested from Chalakkudy in Thrissur district.
"During the process of questioning, the priest has confessed to the crime. A case has been filed against Father Rohin under various provisions of POCSO including Section 5 (n), 6 and 7. Depending on what the investigations reveal, more sections will be added if necessary," Peravoor Circle Inspector Sunil Kumar told The News Minute. He will be produced before Thalassery sessions court on Tuesday.
According to the police, the priest raped the girl multiple times in his room, when she visited the church for prayer mass.
Father Robin, who was posted at the Church run by Catholic Diocese of Mananthavady (Wayanad) in Kannur district almost two-and-a-half years ago, also served as the manager of a school attached to the church. Asha* was a student in the school.
Asha gave birth to a baby boy on February 7 at a private hospital in Kannur. The police say that Asha was admitted to the hospital after she complained of stomach pain, and she delivered the baby. Asha's parents kept her in the dark about her delivery and told her that she was operated on for appendix.
After the delivery, the new born was sent to an orphanage run by a Christian management, without Asha's knowledge. In their statement to the police, Asha's parents have claimed that they were neither aware of the abuse, nor about the pregnancy. They had taken her to a homeopathy doctor initially when she complained that she was not getting her periods, but later did not bother about it.
The police will in all likelihood file a case against the private hospital for failing to report the case.
"They will be charged for hiding of evidence," the police said.
However, when TNM reached out to the private hospital, George, the Public Relations Officer denied that they tried to hide the incident.
"We were not aware that the patient was a minor. At the hospital, we go by the details given to us by the patient's relatives. They said that the girl was 18 years old. It was a normal delivery...she was discharged within two days. We did not prod further, as we did not suspect anything wrong," George maintained.
On a tip-off, district Childline officials visited Asha's house and took the family's statement. After the incident came to light on Saturday, Asha told Childline officials that her own father had raped her.
A Childline official told TNM that they submitted the report to Kelakom police the same day. However, when the police took Asha's father into custody for questioning, he revealed that it was Father Robin who sexually abused his daughter.
The police suspect that Father Robin pressurized the family into hiding the crime.
Peravoor CI Sunil Kumar said that Asha recorded her statement with the magistrate on Saturday.
"Considering the fact that Father Robin has considerable influence, we do not want anyone to manipulate the case. Now that the girl has recorded her statement before the magistrate, we have strong evidence. We are also investigating whether the family was under pressure and whether they accepted any financial reward from the priest for saving him," the officer said.
On Tuesday, office of Catholic Diocese of Mananthavady said in a press statement that Father Robin has been suspended pending enquiry. Saying that the Church had "zero tolerance" towards sexual crimes, the release stated that the Church had "acted in time" when allegations against the priest were raised.
Before being posted at the Church in Kannur, Father Robin also served as the Managing Director of a Malayalam daily "Deepika" and later as the Co-ordinator at a television channel Jeevan TV.
A source at Deepika told TNM, "Robin was the Managing Director of the Deepika daily when it was run by industrialist Faris Abubaker. At that time, he was known to be close to Bishop Mar Mathew Arackal. When the daily was taken over by the diocese he was removed from the post. Later he worked as manager of some schools under the diocese. During his tenure in Deepika he was assigned with management roles and sometimes he came to office even without wearing the robe."
"The priest worked with Jeevan TV for a couple of years and left eight or nine years ago. He was in the role of a coordinator appointed by the management. Now he owes no allegiance with the channel," said Babu Velappaya, Chief News Editor Jeevan TV.