Amid a flurry of news around the Kerala nun’s rape charge against a priest, the state’s High Court gave a directive on another case as if it is a reminder of the overall picture: not all has been well within the Church for long. Last week, the story of a pre-teen girl got refreshed in public memory yet again: the mysterious death of Shreya Benny, a school student from Alappuzha. Justice Sunil Thomas had ordered a CBI probe into the girl’s death eight years ago.
- In December 2010, Shreya’s body was found in a pond at the church-run Kripa Bhavan that was hosting a three-day personality development camp she attended in Cherthala. The 12-year-old girl was last seen, as per a witness, combing her hair in the dormitory past midnight. Sleepwalking was one probability attributed to her end, but post-mortem report revealed two marks on her lower lip.
- Eastward of Alappuzha, the semi-hilly Pathanamthitta district has a town called Ranni. Off that town, in a forested stretch, a woman was found murdered in the monsoon of 1966. Maria Kutty (43) again a resident of Alappuzha, used to regularly visit a parish priest, who would serve provisions for her family that comprised Maria’s four children and her paralysed husband. The fifth child she delivered hinted at the ‘biological father’, and then, she was found with her neck slit on June 15. A lower court sentenced Father Benedict Onamkulam to death but the High Court acquitted him.
- South of Thrissur, a nine-year-old complained to her mother that a priest had undressed her inside a church complex in Thaikattussery in the midsummer of 2014. Father Raju Kokken, who allegedly clicked images of the nude girl and raped her thrice, is out on bail in the case. Now 44, the vicar, who was arrested from southern Tamil Nadu, claims he has been framed.
- A year after that episode, a 14-year-old confessed to her mother that she was being sexually exploited by a 41-year-old priest, who also produced devotional music records. Father Edwin Figarez of Kottapuram diocese was awarded double lifer, making him Kerala’s first Catholic priest to be punished under the POCSO. A special court in Ernakulam gave the verdict in December 2016.
- Some 150 km northeast of Kochi, Palakkad shares its border with Tamil Nadu. In July 2013, in St Stanislaus Church at Walayar, a 17-year-old girl was allegedly raped and murdered by Father H Arockiaraj. The victim’s mother (who is yet to get justice) said the priest had been a family friend since 2006.
- That is a year after a Thrissur family suspected a similar crime in the ‘death’ of their daughter. Jeesamol Devassia, 21, who was found hanging in a parish hostel at Pavaratty. The nursing student had been ‘caught for copying’ in an examination only hours ago, but a laboratory test after post-mortem found semen in her vaginal swab. — ST
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