A priest and a nun were sentenced to life imprisonment on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2020, for the murder of a young woman in the Indian state of Kerala, 28 years after her body was found in a well in a convent compound.
Thomas Kottoor and Sephy were sentenced to life imprisonment for the 1992 murder of then 21-year-old nun Abhaya, legal reporting website Bar and Bench reported.
Sephy and Abhaya both only use one name.
All three were members of the Knanaya Catholic Church based in the town of Kottayam.
Sister Abhaya’s body was found on March 27, 1992.
Initially labelled as suicide by police, the Sister Abhaya case has seen several twists and turns during almost three decades.
These include re-investigations, witnesses turning hostile and a petty thief becoming the key to convicting the accused.
A local court on Tuesday convicted Kottoor and Sephy for murder and destruction of evidence.
A third accused individual – Jose Poothrikkayil, also a priest – was acquitted in 2018.
The convicts are expected to appeal against the decision in a higher court.
Abhaya was an undergraduate student at a convent school run by the church where Kottoor, who was also then secretary to the bishop, took classes.
Sephy was in charge of the hostel where Abhaya resided.
The court accepted the Central Bureau of Investigation’s case that Kottoor and Sephy had murdered the young woman after she inadvertently saw intimate exchanges between them inside the convent premises.
“The case took decades to even reach trial and influential coteries including powerful people in the church tried to change its course,” said rights activist Jomon Puthenpurackal.