Smitha George was no different than the several other women who leave Kerala to join their husbands in making a life in the Middle-East. In 2005, just days after her wedding, she packed her bags along with her husband Antony and left for Dubai from her home in Edapally. But ten years since, she has not returned home. A dead body, presumably that of Smitha's, has been lying in a mortuary in Sharjah for almost a decade.
After her family‚Äôs many attempts to get the Kerala government to act went in vain, there is now renewed hope for earlier this month, the Kerala High Court directed that the CBI investigate Smitha‚Äôs disappearance. Her family believes that she is dead, but a CBI investigation may answer the questions they‚Äôve had all these years.
Smitha last spoke to her father Alasakodathu George, on September 2, 2005. ‚ÄúShe called to our landline, and spoke to me. Since her mother and sister were not at home, she said she will call back later. After that she did not call,‚ÄĚ George recalls.
Smitha's mother Fancy says that for several days there was simply no news. ‚ÄúWe were so worried. Some days later we got a letter sent by her husband Antony, which he said was a copy of a letter written by Smitha. But we were sure that she would not elope with someone. We knew that something was wrong, and approached police but they said they were helpless.‚ÄĚ
When the police threw up their hands, they went to Antony‚Äôs house in Kerala. ‚ÄúWe went to his house, but they behaved so badly. When we asked for our daughter, they abused us and said ‚ÄėTake her from our pockets,‚ÄĚ Fancy said. Through most of the conversation with The News Minute, Fancy wept.
Smitha and Antony
Smitha had left for Dubai with her husband Chirakkal Valiyaparambil Sabu alias Antony on September 1, 2005 after their wedding in May.
According to Antony, Smitha went missing on her second day in Dubai. He later claimed that he had found a letter written by Smitha saying that she had eloped to reunite with her previous lover, a doctor hailing from Kerala.
A cousin of Smitha‚Äôs, Maxson who was also in Dubai at that time, says he found a woman named Devayani Kallumpurathu living in Antony‚Äôs flat when he visited him, a week after Smitha was reported missing. Antony and Maxson had a fight; while Antony and Devayani were arrested for having an illicit affair according to the local laws, Maxson was jailed for assaulting them and deported to India, a year after Antony pressed charges.
After that, the trail went cold. George‚Äôs poor health prevented him from doing much. When their younger daughter Sajni got married five years later, her husband Ajay took it upon himself to get to the bottom of Smitha‚Äôs disappearance.
Meanwhile, Antony returned to Kerala and obtained a divorce, claiming that Smitha had an extramarital relationship and that she had left him to remarry and later settle in the US.
It was only in 2012, after Smitha‚Äôs father approached Chief Minister Oommen Chandy for justice that the Crime Branch took up the case. Upon forensic examination, the letter was found to be forged and subsequently the Crime branch arrested Antony in February 2015.
Around this time, George had approached the Kerala High Court, which directed the Indian Embassy in Dubai to publish Smitha‚Äôs photographs in the local dailies.
However, with the Dubai police refusing to co-operate, Smitha‚Äôs family arranged for a lawyer in Dubai to pursue the case. In March 2015, the Dubai police re-opened the case.
Through the lawyer, Smitha‚Äôs family learned a year ago that on the very day that Smitha was reported missing, the unidentified body of a woman had been brought to a hospital morgue in Sharjah.
The family was shattered when they managed to see a photograph of the body lying in the morgue for the last 10 years. They say it resembles Smitha. However, when blood samples of extended family members were collected by the Dubai lawyer to establish DNA links with the body, they did not match.
Six months ago, Fancy and her younger daughter went to Dubai to give samples for a DNA test, and are awaiting the results. ‚ÄúThey did not show us the body but showed a photograph and it had close resemblance to Smitha,‚ÄĚ Fancy said.
In May, Antony obtained bail, pleading innocence and claimed that Smitha‚Äôs alleged lover might have killed her. Smitha‚Äôs father had told the court about the unclaimed body in Sharjah.
In June 2015, the case against Antony was tightened after the Kannur police tracked down and arrested his friend Devayani Kallumpurathu. She has reportedly told police that she saw Antony banging Smitha‚Äôs head against the wall and threatening her with a knife. Police have made her a witness in the case.
After looking at the photograph, they now believe that Smitha is dead, but not knowing how exactly she died, has greatly distressed Fancy and George.
‚ÄúWe did know what happened to her, whether she is alive or dead. Often, around midnight, or 2 am, 3 am the phone would ring and we would rush to answer thinking that it would be our daughter. But they were all threatening calls. But when we learned that she is dead we disconnected the phone. Whose phone call should we wait for?‚ÄĚ Fancy said.
The family feels completely cheated by Antony. When the proposal was made, he had claimed that he was a graduate but some time ago, they found out that he had not passed the SSLC exam.
‚ÄúSmitha was an MCA. She wanted to work, that is why she went to Dubai with him. Until she went there, he used to call her every day and there was nothing suspicious. He insisted that she bring all the gold jewellery she had, while going to Dubai. But we did not allow her, but she took around 200gm and I think he might have taken it,‚ÄĚ Fancy says. ‚ÄúHe could have taken everything and could have given our daughter back.‚ÄĚ