They say truth is stranger than fiction. The crime saga currently unfolding in Kerala, involving multiple deaths and a woman at the centre of it, proves the adage. After hours of suspense and dizzying coverage by news channels, the police has revealed that they have arrested 47-year-old Jolly Amma Joseph for the murder of her ex-husband and five others.
According to the police, Jolly has confessed that she gave cyanide to her then husband Roy Thomas, his parents and three other relatives, including a baby.
The six deaths in the family happened between 2002 and 2016. While the first death now being suspected as murder was that of Roy Thomas’s mother Annamma Thomas in 2002, the last death was in 2016 when Cily, another relative, died.
According to Vadakara Rural SP KG Simon who met the media on Saturday evening, three people have been arrested for the murder of Roy Thomas and the police will add further charges once the other medical reports come in.
The bodies of the six relatives were exhumed on Friday. Other than Jolly, the police have arrested her friend, 44-year-old MS Mathew, for allegedly supplying the cyanide to her, and 48-year-old Praji Kumar who allegedly procured the poison.
The SP said that when Annamma Thomas died in 2002 and her husband Tom Jose in 2008, no one suspected any foul play. However, when their son Roy Thomas died in 2011, the medical probe found traces of cyanide.
“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,” said the SP.
The SP further said that the police started suspecting Jolly as they found that she had told people in the locality that she was a teacher in NIT and used to go out every morning in a car with the NIT board on it.
“She is a B.Com graduate and owned a beauty parlour, but lied about it. She also told everyone that her former husband Roy Thomas had a heart attack, though she knew that he had cyanide in his system,” he said.
The motives behind the murders
According to the police, Jolly confessed that she murdered each of the six people for different reasons. While property was the reason in a few, anger and passion seem to have been the motive behind other crimes, police claim.
Annamma Thomas had vomited and collapsed after consuming mutton soup and Jolly was allegedly at home at the time.
“Annamma Thomas was the decision-maker in the family and eliminating her was important to ensure that the power of control in the family transfers,” the SP claimed.
He added that Annamma Thomas was admitted to the hospital months before her death. “That time, too, she had consumed mutton soup. Though she was taken to NIMS hospital, the doctors could not find any health issues with her. They obviously did not suspect poison,” he said.
After Annamma’s death, Roy and Jolly lived on good terms with his father Tom Jose. “Tom had sold all his property and had given shares to all his children. Later, there was a severe fallout as Jolly believed they would get more property,” the SP claimed.
After his parents’ death, Roy Thomas and Jolly's relationship allegedly deteriorated significantly. “This is why he was killed. For now, we have only investigated Roy’s death and the FIR is only on that,” the SP said. Roy Thomas was found dead in a bathroom which was locked from the inside.
The next person to die in the family was Annamma’s brother Mathew Manjadiyil, in the year 2014. Though the SP refused to go into details about how he died, he said, “Mathew was the person who insisted the most that there should be a post-mortem on Roy.”
In the same year, Alphine, the two-year-old daughter of Tom Jose’s nephew Shaju, died. Shaju is the son of Tom’s brother Zacharias. “We asked doctors about Alphine Shaju's death. Though the child was supposed to have choked to death, after much deliberation and studying facts, we believe that this death too showed signs of cyanide having been used,” the SP claimed.
In 2016, Alphine’s mother Cily, Shaju’s wife, too died under mysterious circumstances. She collapsed after drinking a glass of water at a dentist’s clinic. Cily had reportedly gone to the dentist with her husband Shaju and Jolly.
Though the SP did not speak at length about Jolly’s suspected motives behind the alleged murder of the child and mother, he said, “Jolly had said many times in the past that she wished she had a husband like Shaju.”
In 2017, Shaju and Jolly got married. Though Shaju was questioned by the police on Saturday, he was let off. “We won’t detain people without having proper proof,” the SP said about Shaju.
Shaju, a teacher, told the media that had nothing to do with any of the deaths and that time would establish the truth.
Meanwhile, Shaju's mother and father Zacharias have spoken out in Jolly's support and maintained that she could not have committed any of these alleged murders.
Under Section 26 of the Indian Evidences Act, confessions made by accused persons while in police custody are not admissible in court, unless recorded in the presence of a Magistrate. The SP said that the Crime Branch team went ahead with the three arrests only after collecting enough evidence, though the details have not been given to the media.
Inputs by Haritha John and Neethu Joseph