A Catholic priest and a nun found guilty of the murder of Sister Abhaya on Tuesday.
Twenty eight years after his sister’s death under mysterious circumstances, Biju Thomas — a Dubai resident and elder brother of murder victim Sister Abhaya — said it was only “divine intervention” that brought those responsible for her death to justice.
Nearly three decades after she was found dead inside in a water well convent St Pius Convent X in Kottayam, a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram pronounced a Catholic priest and a nun guilty of the murder of Sister Abhaya on Tuesday. The quantum of punishment will be handed down on Wednesday.
South India’s longest-running murder investigation
The verdict against Father Thomas Kottoor and Sister Sefi was pronounced by CBI special court judge J Sanal Kumar, who said that Sister Abhaya’s death was a case of “clear murder”.
Her death at age 19 remained a mystery even after a lengthy, convoluted and unsatisfactory series of inquiries by various official investigating bodies. The case is by far the longest-running murder investigation in the southern state.
Initially, both the local investigation agency, Crime Branch, and India’s federal probe agency – the CBI – termed the death as suicide, but human rights activist Joemon Puthenpurackal formed an action council and pursued the case all these years.
‘My parents can rest in peace now’
Khaleej Times reached out to Thomas after the verdict was announced early Tuesday morning. This verdict should have come through when my parents were still alive, the now 51-year-old said, and added: “My parents died in 2016 not knowing what happened to their daughter. Finally, they can rest in peace.”
He said: “I cannot say I am happy, but there is some closure and peace that I feel now. I can finally put this tragedy behind me.” Thomas spent several years going in and out of courts in India with his father before moving to Dubai in search of work.
“I was 21-year-old when she died. I was working in Gujarat at the time. I left my job and stayed back for a year-and-a-half, in the hope that the case would be solved,” he added. As the family’s fight for justice continued even years after her death, Thomas said he had no choice but to leave as the family was in financial crisis.
“I had given up, but my parents had not. In 2014, the case was closed. It was divine intervention… everything about this case has God’s hand in it,” he added. Talking about his family, Thomas said: “My wife was only five-year-old when Beena (Sister Abhaya) died. I have three kids of my own now.”
‘She was a sweet, innocent girl’
“I want to thank the media for not forgetting the case,” he added. In a 2018 interview with Khaleej Times, Thomas had said he had lost faith in the judicial system. “A few months before my father passed away, he had actually predicted this. He knew justice would prevail and the truth would come out one day,” he said.
When asked about what his most fond memories of his sister were, Thomas said, “She was a sweet, innocent girl incapable of hurting anyone or anything.”