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‘Instead of warning, they silenced her’ — Kerala nun Abhaya’s brother recalls 28-year fight

Sister Abhaya, 21, was found dead in a well on 27 March 1992. Kerala Police had initially ruled her death a suicide but an investigation by CBI established it was a homicide.

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Bengaluru: Biju Thomas, the elder brother of Sister Abhaya, is left with regret even as his sister’s killers face life imprisonment 28 years after her murder.

“I only wish they had left my sister alone,” he said, speaking to ThePrint from Dubai, where he is based.

Sister Abhaya, 21, was found dead on 27 March 1992 — her body was recovered from a well at St Pius X Convent, Kottayam, where she lived. The Kerala Police had initially ruled her death a suicide but an investigation by the CBI — handed over the case after some nuns alleged the investigation hadn’t been conducted properly — established it was a homicide. 

Earlier this week, a court convicted Father Thomas Kottoor and Sister Sephy of murder and destruction of evidence, and sentenced them to life imprisonment.

According to the case built by the CBI, the two killed the young nun after she saw them in a compromising position in the early hours of 27 March. The affair constituted a violation of the vow of celibacy that binds the clergy in some Christian orders, and the convicts killed Abhaya for fear of being exposed.

However, Biju, who describes Abhaya as a calm and innocent person, said she probably wouldn’t have said a word to anyone.

“Had the perpetrators warned her to keep quiet, she would have. Instead, they silenced her forever,” he said. 

“She was not talkative,” he added. “Those monsters took her innocence for granted and instead of warning her… they killed her. God has finally intervened and given them their due,” he said.

Also Read: How the case of Kerala Catholic nun Sister Abhaya turned from suicide to murder in 28 yrs

‘Void that can’t be filled’

Thomas, now 51, said he was never in favour of Abhaya joining the convent. But she was eager to dedicate her life to helping others, and stood fast on her chosen path, he added.

“When I asked her to reconsider her decision to become a nun… She said she wanted to help people and the only way was to dedicate herself to Christ and learn the scriptures,” he said. 

“I was quite naive then. I asked her to finish her religious studies and come back home to get married. She laughed and told me that once she becomes a nun, there would be no turning back,” he added.

Speaking about their growing-up years , Thomas said Abhaya was an introvert since childhood and would not harm anybody.

According to Thomas, he was doing a hotel management course in Gujarat when Abhaya died. At the time, he said, he received a letter from a friend of his sister who just mentioned that something “unfortunate” had happened to her.

He first thought it was an accident, since Abhaya had said in a letter two weeks before that she was to go on a tour.

“When I got the letter, I was told to return to Kerala immediately. Those days we had no money. I had just Rs 120 in my pocket,” he said. 

When he arrived at the mortuary, he added, a person “came up to me and told me that somebody has killed her”.

The CBI described the sequence of events in its chargesheet — Abhaya woke up around 4 am on 27 March and was coming down the stairs towards the convent kitchen to drink water when she saw the two accused in a compromising position. 

The duo subsequently attacked her — including with an axe — and pushed her into a well nearby.

The role of Kottoor and Sephy came to light in 2008, when the then CBI Deputy Superintendent of Police Nandakumaran Nair arrested the duo along with one Father Jose Puthrukayil, who was later discharged by the Kerala High Court for lack of evidence.

Since the start of the investigation, activist Jomon Puthenpurackal has been at the forefront of calls for justice for the slain nun. Speaking to ThePrint, Jomon said “it was visible at every stage that Sr Abhaya was murdered”.

“The  investigating officers (initially) turned a blind eye and wanted to close the case, calling it a suicide. I decided to fight till the end,” he added.

As Thomas has been based in Dubai, he has often encountered criticism for leaving the fight for justice to their father, who ran from pillar to post trying to get the media to expose the “perpetrators”. Thomas, however, said though he had to go to Dubai for work, he had been an active part of his sister’s case since Day One.

“I was the one who went and received her autopsy report. It showed that her body had 375 ml of water,” he said. “For a person who drowns, you won’t find such a small amount of water in the body. I knew that very day that it was murder. People may say whatever they please, but I lost my sister and that void cannot be filled,” he added.

Also Read: Kerala Catholic priest, nun sentenced to life in prison in 1992 Sister Abhaya murder case


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  1. Ever wonder why
    are silent on activities of church.

    MANY European and US embassy decisions to issue visa , work permit and jobs as favours and SCHOLARSHIP to prestigious European and US institution as well as handsome stipend is controlled by evangelical churches who have branches in INDIA.


    HENCE to gain favour these journalist do not report activities of the church.

    • Sanghi read this :Journalism is a journey to discover truth 😭 Really horrible that none of these corrupt and immoral media have given even a passing reference to the landmark judgment of Hon. Justice Mrs. K. Hema of Kerala High Court who had released vide her Order Bail Appl. Nos. 7311, 7508 & 7551 of 2008 dated 01/01/2009 ( source : ) Fr. Thomas, Fr. Jose and Sr.SR. SEPHY,the Three defendants on bail confirming they were innocent and the end of Sr. Abhaya was through Suicide and not through murder! How could Hon. Justice come to the conclusion that Sr. Abhaya was not murdered? Please see Para 40 of her Judgement :”As per the post-mortem certificate issued by Dr.Radhakrishnan “The skull was intact. Brain showed localised subarachnoid haemorrhage underneath these contused regions. No sign of increased intracranial tension.” 41. As per the case diary, the two lacerated injuries on Sr. Abhaya were bleeding injuries, though those were less than an inch in length and NOT EVEN SKULL DEEP. Blood was seen oozing out from the head even after the dead body was extricated and kept outside. If the contentions of CBI are accepted, there must be blood at the scene or on the veil or the floor or the weapon. There must be at least a drop of blood anywhere in the area. 42. No blood on the scene: But, in spite of the fact that Sr. Abhaya sustained two bleeding injuries on the head, no blood was seen by any body on the scene, veil or the weapon which was found nearby. Not even a drop of blood was seen any where near the scene. If there was some blood, some inmates or a witness would have noticed it. But, inspite of sixteen years of investigation, no body is alleged to have stated that any drop of blood was seen on the veil or the scene or the weapon. CBI could not point out any scrap of paper which reveals that any witness saw any drop of blood at the premises. The above facts were pointed out by learned defence counsel as a ground to rule out any possibility of an assault at the scene, as alleged. 43. It is needless to say that any investigating officer would ascertain from the witnesses whether any blood was found at the scene or on the weapon or some article found at the scene. The presence of blood is not some thing which any body would miss to notice. The place of occurrence is a women’s hostel where there were 123 women inmates out of which only 20 were nuns. Though disturbance in the scene was clearly elicited and is relied upon also, regarding presence of blood at the scene, there is only a silence from the side of prosecution. There is no case that local police hushed up this crucial factor. The CBI has also not so far investigated and found out presence of any blood at the scene.

  2. Life imprisonment is a very soft punishment for these priests who knew truth but willingly chose to tread the blood of Jesus Christ under their foot. They think by offering tidings and through vein prayers they can cajole God into forgiving them. But is not what they imagine. He is silent and patience for a season and for a reason But on judgement day the true supreme God will judge them for their wickedness.

  3. It pains to see the snails pace at which investigations proceed. A big part of it is due to corruption. Hope new officers who join the police are a much better ethical lot. The judiciary as always needs to really do something about old pending cases. There are cases which are hanging for generations. It’s a travesty and injustice if the cruelest kind

  4. Justice delayed is justice denied. For 28 years after committing the crime the culprits roamed free. What kind of justice is that?

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