Kerala Police have taken into custody an Indian woman from Kozhikode in the state of Kerala in India on suspicion of carrying out the murder of six members of her Catholic family over 14 years for financial gain. Jolly Shaju was arrested while her second husband and a relative, who supposedly gave her the cyanide for the murders, were detained by the police.
According to Indian news websites, the six deaths in the family occurred between 2002 and 2016. She was finally arrested following a two-month-long investigation. A police official told local media that the accused was meticulous in her planning and worked to conceal the murders making it a challenging case.
According to hindustantimes.com, Kozhikkode Rural Superintendent of Police KG Simon said arrests were made in cases against Jolly Thomas, her friend M Mathew, who arranged potassium cyanide and a jewellery worker Praju Kumar, who supplied the poisonous substance.
The first death was in 2002 of retired teacher Annamma Thomas (57) that the family considered as due to natural causes. Then, six years later, her husband Tom Thomas (66), an Indian government employee died of heart failure as did their son, Roy Thomas (40), in 2011. However, the autopsy report of Roy showed there were signs of poisoning before death. In 2014, Annamma’s brother, Mathew Manjadiyil (67), died in a similar manner. This occurrence was followed by the deaths of their relative’s daughter, Alphonsa (2), who was stricken by a heart attack and within months her mother, Sili (27) met the same fate.
Roy’s widow, Jolly, then married Sili’s widower Shaju Scaria and claimed ownership of the family property using a fake will that was supposedly from her father-in-law Tom.
Tom’s second son and Roy’s brother Rojo, who is an NRI settled in the USA, contested the transfer of ownership of family property and lodged complaints with the Crime Branch regarding the serial deaths.
A new probe was launched following the complaint, which prompted the police officials to exhume five victims’ bodies from different graveyards. Roy’s body was not dug out because his post mortem examination was completed right after his death, reported indiatoday.in.
Police officials stated to media that upon examination, forensic experts found the presence of cyanide, and noticed a pattern in the way all the family members died and signs indicated likely poisoning. Police deduced that it was a case of slow poisoning.
Police also investigated call details, and discovered that Jolly and Shaju communicated during odd hours.
It was reported in indiatoday.in, that Jolly, who was a commerce graduate, had made false claims she was an engineering graduate and was working as a lecturer at the National Institute of Technology (NIT).
According to ndtv.com, Jolly was also reportedly present at all the places where the deaths occurred, but while she is being held for her first husband’s Roy’s death alledgedly by cyanide, the probe is ongoing to ascertain her involvement in the deaths of the other family members.
News18.com have reported that the police first explored the property angle as reasons behind the murders, as Joly had managed to inherit her husband and his parents’ assets.