Crime
The CBI court noted that there was no evidence or witnesses to prove that Fr Poothrikkayil had been present at the convent the night of the murder.

Pronouncing judgement on the discharge pleas filed by the three main accused in the controversial Sister Abhaya murder case, the special CBI court in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday removed Fr Jose Poothrikkayil from the accused list in the case.

The discharge pleas of Fr Thomas Kottoor and Sr Sephy were dismissed.

The court while delivering the judgement noted that there was no evidence or witnesses to prove that Fr Poothrikkayil had been present at the convent the night the murder took place.

“I am content with the court’s order. I have never done anything that is against morality, especially in regard with this case. I have always been proud of my priesthood. There is been a divine intervention in the pronouncement of this verdict. I hope my colleagues are also pronounced not guilty. I do not want to comment further on the case proceedings,” Fr Poothrikkayil said to Manorama, after the judgement.

Father Jose Poothrikkayil was the second accused in the Sister Abhaya murder case. 

The case

Sister Abhaya, a Knanaya Catholic nun, was found dead on March 27, 1992 in the Pius Tenth Convent in Kottayam. Her body was found in a well in the convent. The local police and crime branch closed the case back then, calling it a suicide.

But a year later, in 1993, the case was reopened and taken up by the CBI, after the crime branch investigation was called a sham and the police accused of trying to aid the killers.

The investigation was led by the then DySp Varghese P Thomas. It was Varghese who declared the Abhaya case a murder, before he resigned on December 31, 2003.

In 2008, 16 years after Abhaya’s death, the CBI made three arrests as part of its investigation. Two priests (Father Thomas Kottoor and Father Jose Poothrikkayil) and a nun (Sister Sephy) were arrested, but released on bail a few months later. In 2009, the CBI submitted the charge sheet in the case, claiming that strong evidence was available against the two priests and the nun.

CBI reports submitted to the special court in Thiruvananthapuram stated that according to a witness, Prof Thressyamma, the two priests had illicit relations with the nun. The CBI also claimed in its reports that the two priests and the nun had a physical relationship, and that Sister Abhaya found them in a compromising position inside the hostel and this was the motive for the murder.

On January 22, the CBI court added a former crime branch SP, KT Michael, in the list of accused for allegedly destroying key evidence in the case. Michael, who was in charge of the preliminary investigation in the death of Sister Abhaya, had closed the case saying she had committed suicide.