Over 28 years after the murder of 19-year-old sister Abhaya, a Special CBI court in Thiruvananthapuram has sentenced Father Thomas Kottoor and Sister Sephy to life imprisonment.

The two convicts have also been directed to pay a fine of Rs 5 Lakh each.

Sister Abhaya's body was recovered from the well of the Pious Xth Convent in Kottayam on March 27, 1992.

Father Thomas Kottoor and Sister Sephy were found guilty on charges of murder and destruction of evidence, and house trespass (IPC Sections 302, 201, and 449).

The Sister Abhaya case, which has over the years seen several twists, had been written off as suicide by the Kerala police and then by the crime branch. The CBI, which took over the investigation a year later, had filed three reports in the high court seeking to end the case citing lack of evidence. However, the high court rejected the reports and ordered a new investigation. 

The new investigation team made the first arrests in the case on November 19, 2008. Father Thomas M Kottur is the first accused, Father Jose Poothrikkayil was second accused and Sister Sefi was the third accused. Father Jose Poothrikkayil was acquitted by the trial court citing lack of evidence.

The trial in the CBI special court started only on August 26, 2019.

According to reports, the CBI team had concluded that sister Abhaya was murdered by priests Thomas Kottoor, Jose Puthrukayil and Sister Sefi. The agency claimed that the 18-year-old nun happened to witness the accused in a compromising position and was killed fearing that she might spill the beans. 

During the trial, nine witnesses, including Sister Abhaya’s roommate Sister Sherly, turned hostile.

A crucial testimony in the case was that of forensic expert Dr V Kandaswamy who told the CBI special court in Thiruvananthapuram that she died because of the injury inflicted on head and that it was not a case of suicide.

Observing that Sister Abhaya's death did not have signs of suicide, Dr V Kandaswamy said six injuries on the nun's head -- especially the deep wound in the middle part -- was the cause of her death.

B Raman Pillai, counsel for Father Thomas Kottoor, had argued that that the prosecution had cooked up a tale and that his client had turned into an accused as per that story only. He argued that the statements of the witnesses against Kottoor were unreliable, doubtful and hence could not be accepted as evidence.