The police investigation into a series of deaths in Kozhikode district’s Koodathayi village has rocked Kerala and dominated headlines in the state in the past week. A 47-year-old woman, Jolly Amma Joseph, has been arrested by the police in connection with the death of her husband, and five other family members between 2002 and 2016.
Who is Jolly Amma Joseph?
Jolly, the alleged killer, is a commerce graduate, who claimed she had an engineering degree and pretended she was faculty at NIT, investigating officer in the case, Rural SP KG Simon said. (NIT says she was never an employee and used a forged ID card to access the Calicut campus.)
Jolly and two others were arrested on Saturday, October 5, in the case relating to the death of her husband Roy Thomas in 2011. Roy Thomas had died following consumption of cyanide-laced food.
After Jolly’s arrest, police opened investigations into the death of five others. She is the prime suspect in connection with five deaths in the family which took place between 2002-2016.
While Jolly’s in-laws Annamma Thomas and Tom Thomas died in 2002 and 2008 respectively, and Annamma’s brother Mathew died in 2014.
Jolly later got married to Tom’s nephew Shaju, whose wife Sili and one-year-old daughter died in 2016.
Police say Jolly has confessed to killing all six people for different reasons. Police say the motives behind the killings were anger and property, among others. You can read The NewsMinute’s report for more details on this.
The two others arrested in the case are, MS Mathew (44) and Prajikumar (48), who allegedly supplied the cyanide.
How did Kerala police take on the case?
A Special Investigation Team of the Kerala Police began probing the case after receiving a complaint on the six deaths from Roy Thomas’s brother, Rojo, who lives in the US.
According to Mathrubhumi, when Rojo was in Kerala, he used RTI applications to get details on the deaths of his family members. He then filed a complaint with the police.
Police said that a medical probe into Roy’s death in 2011 had found traces of cyanide in his body.
“The final report said that there was nothing suspicious about his death and stated that it was a case of suicide. Later, when we inspected the file, we found that there were traces of cyanide and the police had not found from where he’d got the cyanide. We asked the court permission for re-investigation. A team headed by Crime Branch DySp Haridasan was constituted and in the last two months, we found that there had been six deaths in this family. We decided to investigate further as the deaths were similar and the presence of one woman was common in all the deaths,” the SP said, according to The NewsMinute.
The bodies of the relatives were exhumed on Friday.
What does the police say?
Besides Roy, the police is yet to identify the presence of cyanide or anything in the forensic analysis after exhuming the remains of the five others, PTI reported.
Manorama says the police has decided to conduct Mitochondrial DNA analysis of the mortal remains of the six people, and could send the remains abroad if the labs in India are not equipped for it.
“Extraction of DNA is a difficult process, especially on older remains. The first death in Koodathayi happened 17 years ago,” Kerala DGP Loknath Behera said on Monday.
He also said: “The case is very challenging. The best investigating officials will be appointed to probe the case. I have already discussed the matter with SP KG Simon who leads the probe team.”
Behera said that the lack of evidence and the absence of eyewitnesses was a challenge, according to Manorama.
“The Crime Branch has prepared a list of persons to be interrogated,” SP KG Simon told Manorama News.
What is Jolly’s husband Shaju saying?
Shaju was questioned by the police for several hours on Monday, October 7, and was let off after he recorded his statement. He was asked to keep them informed in case he travels.
Shaju later told reporters Jolly had given a statement against him and was trying to frame him, Manorama reported. However, he also said Jolly should not be blamed completely. “Let the probe get completed,” he said, according to Mathrubhumi.
Meanwhile, Sili’s relative Xavier has alleged Shaju is lying. “We were all opposed to Jolly and Shaju’s wedding. After Alphine’s death, a post mortem was not conducted on her on the insistence of Shaju’s family,” TNM quoted him as saying.
Shaju said he thought his daughter had died of chickenpox or choking on food. “As she was a child, we refused to send her body for post-mortem. But now I think it was the wrong decision,” he said.
What is her sister-in-law Renji saying?
Renji Thomas, sister of Jolly’s first husband, said Jolly married Roy in 1997 and that it was a love-turned-arranged marriage. Things began changing after Annamma Thomas’s death, as Jolly took control of the reins of the family, she said, according to PTI.
She alleges Shaju had been in love with Jolly even before his wife Sili’s death.
According to PTI, Renji said she and her brother Rojo had grown suspicious when some forged documents over property surfaced, after Jolly got married to Shaju.
Renji said that for the past three years, neither she nor her brother consumed even a glass of water from the house out of fear that they would be poisoned.
What Jolly’s son says
Romo, Jolly’s son with her first husband, said: “My mother could not have committed all the murders alone, including that of my father. I suspect help from outsiders. I am sure that all those involved in this crime would be brought to book.”
TNM reports that police has summoned former sub-inspector in the case Ramanunni as traces of cyanide shown in Roy’s post-mortem report were not investigated.
Local CPI(M) member K Manoj was questioned by the police after he was accused of helping Jolly prepare a fake will of her father-in-law for money. The party’s Kozhikode unit said he has been removed for bringing disrepute to the party, the same report says.
(With inputs from PTI)