A day after one of the four Orthodox Church priests accused of raping a woman from Thiruvalla surrendered, one more accused priest, Fr Johnson Mathew, has landed in the police net.
The third accused in the case, the Crime Branch reportedly took him into custody from Kozhenchery in Pathanamthitta district on Friday, following which his arrest was recorded.
Fr Johnson Mathew, along with three other priests, has been booked under charges of rape and molestation by the Crime Branch.
According to the survivor's statement, Fr Johnson Mathew sent her sexually coloured messages on WhatsApp and sexually assaulted her in a car. He also allegedly morphed the survivor's face onto a nude photograph of another woman and threatened to circulate it on the internet. According to her statement, Fr Johnson Mathew was her senior in college and got in touch with her on WhatsApp.
Fr Johnson Mathew was arrested a day after second accused Fr Job Mathew surrendered before the police in Kollam. 40-year-old priest Fr Job Mathew has been accused of blackmailing the survivor using her confession in 2009.
After the Crime Branch recorded his arrest, Fr Job Mathew was remanded to 15 days in judicial custody by the Thiruvalla Magistrate Court.
With two arrests being made in the case, two more accused priests continue to be at large. The arrests of the accused priests became imminent after their anticipatory bail plea was rejected by the Kerala High Court earlier this week.
While rejecting their bail, the court called them "predators" and said that the allegations made by the survivor were serious.
The court also said that all the accused are clergymen who were in a position of dominance over the woman, and they had sexually abused her by exploiting the said status.
The victim has also told the court that consent was not unequivocal or voluntary. The judge said that he found no reason to ignore the womanâ€™s statement, as she had given the magistrate a graphic description as to â€˜how she was threatened and forced to succumb to the carnal desires of the accusedâ€™.