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Chargesheet ready against defrocked priest for teen’s rape and murder

Chargesheet ready against defrocked priest for teen’s rape and murder

Published: 23rd August 2016 12:58 AM

Last Updated: 23rd August 2016 12:58 AM

From the Link:

PALAKKAD/COIMBATORE: AS the charge sheet is being readied against defrocked priest, H Arockiaraj, accused in the suspicious death of a teenage girl at the pastor’s residence attached to the St. Stanislaus church in Walayar in 2013, the Coimbatore Bishop and three members of the clergy are likely to be made approvers.

According to police summons might be issued to Bishop Thomas Aquinas and the priests, Fr BF Madalaimuthu, Fr Kulandairaj, Fr Lawrence Melcure arrested and later released on bail for withholding information, to give a statement under section 164 before the Magistrate. If they supported the prosecution, they are likely to be made approvers. The Bishop and the three priests would have to give a statement to the Chief Judicial Magistrate which will determine the course of the case.

On July 23, 2013, the body of Fathima Sofiya was found in the living room of Fr Arockiaraj’ residence attached to the St. Stanislaus church in Chandrapuram. She was then 18 years and 4 days old. Subsequently, four weeks after the ‘murder’, a canonical court was set up by the Coimbatore Bishop, which found that Fr Arockiaraj guilty. He was suspended from the diocese and defrocked.

Sources, privy to the investigation, said the post mortem report by police surgeon Dr PB Gujral has clearly stated that rape had been committed on the girl while ruling out ligature strangulation. However, Shanthi Roselin, the mother of the girl,  continued to maintain that her daughter was strangulated. As such, investigators are learnt to have sought medico legal opinion on whether under these circumstances Section 302 (murder) could be included in the chargesheet.

On a petition from Shanthi Roselin, the Additional Sessions Court I, Palakkad had issued warrants against the Bishop and the four priests. They were charged under section 201 and 202 of the IPC for withholding information about Fr Arockiaraj from the police.

On August 12, Bishop Thomas Aquinas, Fr Madalaimuthu, Fr Kulandairaj, Fr Lawrence

Melcure had appeared before the investigation officer MK Zulfiquer at the Palakkad South police station and their statements were recorded. They were later let off on bail.

The Walayar police who investigated the crime had collected the shawl in which the body was reportedly found hanging. But this crucial piece of evidence was now missing after the police had closed the case within two weeks after writing it off as suicide.

It was in July 2015, after two years, Shanthi Roselin after recovering a letter Fr Arokiaraj had written to Sofiya and based on the photographs showing bruises on the face of the deceased, had approached the police for a reinvestigation. By then, Shanthi had also recorded many telephonic conversations she had with Arokiaraj in the background of her daughters death.

Later, Fr Arockiraj was arrested on charges of rape and under Posco for abusing a minor. He is now out on conditional bail.

Shanthi had also approached the Kerala High court and met the DGP of Kerala seeking justice.

She admits that her family had known Fr Arockiaraj since 2007 when her daughter was in Class VI. He was the Assistant Vicar of the St. Michael’s church in Coimbatore. The family kept in touch after he was transferred to Valparai in Tamil Nadu and later to Chandrapuram in Walayar. He used to visit Shanthi’s house Coimbatore and bring Sofiya in his car to Walayar, located 35 km away, for an eye treatment, counselling and catechism classes. It was during one such trips that the body of Sofiya was found in the living room of Fr Arockiaraj

Meanwhile, the Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Coimbatore, speaking to Express, clarified that the question of hiding evidence from the police by four members of the clergy, never arose as the Kerala police had never sought any information from them in the first place.

Bishop Thomas Aquinas, and the three priests, Kulanthai Raj, Madalai Muthu and Lawrence Melcure, were part of the canonical commission that inquired into the issue. Despite Arockiaraj having confessed to have “used” the girl, to the canonical court, the information was not divulged to the Kerala police.

“The inquiry was conducted in 2013, and Arockiaraj was defrocked. We did not divulge information to the police as they did not seek it from us,” said Father John Joseph, Vicar General.

“At the time the girl was supposed to have died, the Bishop was away on ecclesiastical duty. The police had already conducted an autopsy into the teens death and were proceeding with the investigations,” he added.

Following the arrests of the four priests for concealing evidence, the church has submitted documents relating to the inquiry to the Kerala police, officials confirmed