Key witness in Kerala nun rape case found dead: Even before autopsy report, police say death due to natural causes

Dasuya: It has only been five days since Franco Mulakkal, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar and accused in the rape of a nun, returned to Jalandhar after being granted bail by the Kerala High Court, and already, a key witness in the case has been found dead. Father Kuriakose Kattuthara (62) was found dead inside his room in St Paul’s Church, Dasuya in Hoshiarpur district of Punjab. The church and his accommodations are situated inside St Paul’s Convent School.

Police at Father Kurikose's home. Image: Sunil Lakha

Police at Father Kuriakose's home. Image: Sunil Lakha

Father Kuriakose, who was generally an early riser, did not wake up until 9.30 am on Monday morning. This raised the suspicions of the church cook, Madan Lal, who informed the staff. Lal said that he had served food to the Father on Sunday evening and that was the last time he saw him. “Father used to wake up very early in the morning. When he did not come out till late on Monday morning, I informed the staff of the church,” he said.

Sister Vianney from St Paul’s Convent was among those who were alerted by Lal. After 15 minutes of trying to get a response from inside, the door was broken down and he was found lying motionless on the bed and his clothes were stained with vomit. According to Sister Vianney, he was immediately taken to the Government Civil Hospital in Dasuya where the doctors declared him dead on arrival. A post-mortem is underway at the hospital and the report is still being awaited.

At around 3.15 pm on Monday, senior police officials reached the spot along with a dog squad and searched the room where the Father was found. Sources in the police said that they are checking documents and other items to ascertain if there is any case of foul play in his death, as alleged by his family. Police also held a thorough check of the kitchens where the food for the priest and his staff are usually prepared.

A colleague of Father Kuriakose and a priest from the St Paul’s Church, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the former had not been well for the past few days and was on medication. Some prescriptions for high blood pressure were also found in his room, according to police sources.

Deputy Superintendent of Police AR Sharma has said that initial inquiries revealed no injury marks on the body. “Only after the post-mortem report comes in, we can explain the cause of the death,” he said. Senior Superintendent of Police of Hoshiarpur J Elanchezhian has said that prima facie, the death seems to be due to natural causes. “We are examining all the facts and a board of doctors has been formed to hold the postmortem and verify other scientific details. After the postmortem report comes to us, we will be in a position to say something. But it seems to be a case of natural death in our initial investigation,” he said.

With inputs from Sunil Lakha

The author is a Ludhiana-based freelance writer and a part of 101Reporters’ grassroots network.


Updated Date: Oct 22, 2018 18:25 PM

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