In one of India's longest running murder trials, a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court handed life sentences to a vicar and a nun on Wednesday for killing 19-year-old Sister Abhaya in the Indian state of Kerala – 28 years after her murder – ANI news agency reported.
They were also fined INR 500,000 ($6,775) each by the court.
A special CBI Court at Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday sentenced to life imprisonment Father Thomas M Kottoor and SisterSephy, a priest and a nun of the Catholic church respectively, for the murder of #SisterAbhaya 28 years ago— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) December 23, 2020
Read more: https://t.co/AslsHOn80r#SisterAbhayaCase pic.twitter.com/ILYwzScCHA
Throughout the entire trial, murderers Father Thomas Kottoor and Sister Sephy maintained their innocence, while also being backed by the church, but their pleas eventually fell on deaf ears.
After Sister Abhaya's body was discovered in a well in 1992, the local police initially closed the case as a drowning and then suicide. However, 67 nuns from Abhaya's congregation demanded the Chief Minister of the Kerala State Government investigate the case as a homicide – in 1993, the CBI started looking into her death, sparking almost three decades of twists and turns.
It's believed that Sister Abhaya accidentally intruded upon Kottoor, Sephy, and another priest called Jose Poothrikkayil in a compromising position causing Sephy to panic and hit her over the head with an axe. They then dumped Abhaya's body in a well.
The CBI arrested the trio back in 2008 but Poothrukkayil was acquitted due to lack of evidence.