The Sister Abhaya case has finally reached closure with a Catholic priest and a nun being pronounced guilty of the murder of the teenaged nun, 28 years ago, in Kottayam.
It was the journalism of Sreejan Balakrishnan (in picture, above), then a reporter with The New Indian Express, that played a pivotal role in giving the grisly murder a fresh lease of life.
Local police had dismissed it as “suicide”.
The Central Bureau of Investigation which “investigated” the case, had thrown its hands up in 2007, terming it “homicide” but unable to catch the perpetrators.
The judge who rejected the CBI closure report says Sreejan’s reporting in TNIE kept the case alive in public memory and social consciousness.
As per the chargesheet, Abhaya, 19, an inmate of St Pious X Convent in Kottayam, had woken up at 4am on March 27, 1992, to prepare for her college exam.
When she went down to the kitchen to fetch drinking water, she was believed to have seen Sister Sephy and two priests in a compromising position in the nun’s room.
Father Thomas Kottoor strangled Abhaya while Sephy hit her on the head with a hand axe that left a deep gash. The duo then dumped Abhaya into a well in the convent. She was still alive at the time.
In 2007, Sreejan revealed that the chemical examination report had been tampered with in a ham-handed manner to hide the rape of Sister Abhaya before her murder.
There were overwritings at four places using whitener and a different ink. The word “not” had been prefixed to “detected” to contradict the findings.
Sreejan’s reports in TNIE helped revive interest in the murder.
“A report by B Sreejan appeared in TNIE, which generated lot of discussion about Abhaya murder among the masses.
“In fact, TNIE played a crucial role in keeping the case and related discussions alive in public memory,” the judge recalls in today’s paper.
After yesterday’s judgment, Sreejan’s role was acknowledged on Twitter.
Sreejan, for his part, tweeted an opinion piece had done earlier, and expressed gratitude at being remembered by The New Indian Express in its coverage today.
The two chemical analysts, both women, who were under the spotlight and “went into hiding” after the “media trial” have expressed relief at the verdict.
Screenshots: courtesy Binu Karunakaran
Photograph: courtesy Sreejan B