The Punjab police on Tuesday, 23 October, filed a case of unnatural death, a day after Father Kuriakose Kattuthara was found dead in Hoshiarpur, reported CNN-News18.
Father Kuriakose was one of the prime witnesses who had testified against rape accused Franco Mulakkal.
On Monday, the priest’s family has filed a complaint with the Alappuzha Police, seeking an inquiry into his death.
Bishop Mulakkal Reduced Allowance to Rs 500, Claims Dead Priest’s Brother
Kuriakose Kattuthara’s case is one of unnatural death, his family claimed on Monday.
The Indian Express quoted a complaint filed by Kattuthara’s younger brother Jose Kurian stating that Kattuthara’s monthly compensation was reduced to Rs 500, allegedly at the behest of Bishop Franco Mulakkal, and that he was divested of all powers despite being the seniormost priest in the church.
Mulakkal headed the diocese before he stepped aside last month.
Mortal Remains of Kuriakose Brought to Jalandhar Cant.
The mortal remains of Father Kuriakose Kattuthara was brought to church at Jalandhar Cantonment on Tuesday, 22 October.
Father Kuriakose's Autopsy Recorded on Video
The autopsy of Father Kuriakose Kattuthara was conducted under the supervision of four doctors and recorded with a video camera to ensure a clean report, confirmed Jose Kattuthara, brother of the late priest, speaking to The News Minute.
Punjab Police Registers Unnatural Death Case
The Punjab police on Tuesday, 23 October, filed a case of unnatural death, a day after Father Kuriakose Kattuthara was found dead in Hoshiarpur.
Postmortem of Father Kuraikose's Body To be Completed Today
AR Sharma, DSP Dasuya, said that the post mortem of Father Kuraikose’s body will be completed today.
“Postmortem of the body will be completed today and further investigation will continue. If any foul play is found, no one will be spared,” he said.
Police Visit Quarter Where Father Kuraikose Was Found Dead
Police on Tuesday visited the quarter in St Paul's church where Father Kuriakose,witness in Kerala nun rape case,was found dead.
“Prima facie, it was natural death. But it will be ascertained after postmortem. Door handle was broken by locals to take body out, we've checked it," the SHO told ANI.
Mulakkal's Release is a Threat to All Concerned: A Joseph
Speaking about Kuriakose’s death to ANI, A Joseph, a women who had earlier observed a fast in Kochi in protest against Bishop Franco Mulakkal, said that the latter had considerable influence in Jalandhar and that his release, was a “threat” to all.
No Idea that Witness Was in Hoshiarpur: AR Sharma
"We had no idea that a prime witness in a high profile case was here in Hoshiarpur district's Dasuya village. We also had no idea that he was being pressured or threatened," DSP Hoshiarpur A R Sharma told The Quint.
Adding that we were not alerted about his movement here and would have given him protection if it was officially asked.
No Faith in Punjab Police: Father Kuriakose's Brother
The brother of Kuriakose Kattuthara said that he had “no faith” in the Punjab Police.
“We want to bring the body to Alappuzha and bury it. If they want to do postmortem without letting us know, is there any guarantee that it'll be done without foul play?” the brother asked.
Father Kuriakose's Death Is Pre-Planned Murder: Rape Survivor's Brother
Brother of the Kerala nun who has accused Franco Mulakkal of rape called Father Kuriakose’s death a “pre-planned murder.”
Jalandhar Diocese & Bishop Mulakkal Express Condolences
The Jalandhar diocese issued a statement in which Bishop Franco Mulakkal and Bishop Agnelo Gracias expressed sadness over the sudden demise of Father Kuriakose Kattuthara.
Here’s the full statement:
“Bishop Franco Mulakkal and Bishop Agnelo Gracias have expressed sadness over the sudden demise of Fr. Kuriakose Kattuthara. He was found dead in his personal room in the morning of 22nd October 2018. He was staying in the priest house of Dasuya, Tanda Deanery, Hoshiarpur District. He was born on 9th July 1957. He was ordained on 29th March 1983. He has served in the Diocese of Jalandhar in various capacities as Parish Priest, Professor, Director, Chaplin to convents etc. He was instrumental in preparing the Punjabi Missal for the locdaal Church. His sudden death has left a big sorrow to the Jalandhar Presbyterium and Religious Men and Women and People of God. Hearty Condolences.”
Father Kuriakose Was Receiving Death Threats: Kin
Elsamma, Father Kuraikose’s sister-in-law, while speaking to The Quint, said that he did suffer from high blood sugar, but the family does not believe that’s the cause of death.
“He called us and told us he was receiving threats to his life. He kept getting calls and other threats apparently. His car was also pelted with stones and his house as well was attacked by unknown people. While we don't know exactly who they were, we suspect they were Bishop Mulakkal's people,” she said.
“The post mortem is being conducted right now. We've never been threatened personally. He was the one who received threats often for speaking out. We want his body returned and want the CM to ensure this is investigated properly,” Elsamma told The Quint.
Several Sisters Had Issues With Mulakkal: Kuriakose to Mathrubhumi
In an interview to Mathrubhumi News in July, Father Kuriakose alleged that many sisters who had had left the church, had come and told him that they “cannot continue with the church”, as long as Franco Mulakkal remained in office. He added that he was “pained” by the media slander against the nun.
“I have known the complainant and the other protesting nuns for long. She has given exemplary service throughout life and has never had any scandal associated with her. The church had even decided to make her Mother General. She has never misled the other nuns. I protest the slandering and character assassination done against them in the media. If the nun had shown disobedience, why did the bishop never take it up with the higher-ups? Why did he go to the police and say that she and other protesting nuns had loose character? We are pained that a slander campaign was done against them through the media and social media. Let the truth come out,” he told Mathrubhumi News.
“Let the truth come out. Although the complainant had not told us anything, recently many other sisters, who had left the church, had come and told me while crying that as long as the bishop remains in office I cannot continue with the church. If it was one or two, it could have been slander. But many women came.”
Authorities Trying to Conduct Postmortem in the Absence of Family: Kuriakose's Relative
Benny, one of Father Kuriakose's relatives, said that the authorities are trying to conduct the postmortem in the absence of his family.
Speaking to The Quint, he reiterated that the family members were trying to ensure it's only done in the presence of at least one of them. They have also filed a complaint with the Inspector General and that they also want to file a complaint with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
Father Kuriakose's Family Files Police Complaint
Father Kuriakose Kattuthara's family has filed a complaint with Alappuzha Police seeking an inquiry into his death, reported ANI.
No Injury Marks Found on Body: Police
No injury marks were found on Father Kuriakose’s body, Dasuya DSP AR Sharma told ANI.
“[It is] difficult to say if it was a murder. There are no injury marks on the body. There was vomit on the bed. We have also recovered blood pressure tablets from the scene. Investigation is on. He wasn’t given any security as we weren't informed of his presence in our area. Post-mortem will be done once the primary investigation is over,” Sharma said.
Father Kuriakose was transferred 15 days back to the church at Dasuya, police said. He was staying in the premises of the church. He was dead in the premises of St Paul's School in Hoshiarpur.
Circumstances of Death Suspicious: Sister Who Led Protests Against Franco
Sister Anupama, who had led the protests against Bishop Franco, told The News Minute (TNM) that the circumstances of his death are suspicious.
“We are very shocked to hear this news. Father Kuriakose has taught me and he was part of our parish as well. He was a crucial witness in our case as he had given statements against Bishop Franco to police. I haven’t been in touch with him but I had heard from other priests that he had been facing a lot of pressure of late, with many in the Church pointing fingers at him. We feel the circumstances of his death are suspicious and may affect our case against Bishop Franco,” said Sister Anupama.
Priests, Nuns Allege Foul Play
Father Sebastian, friend of Father Kuriakose and cousin of the rape survivor, told The Quint that Father Kuriakose had been terrified since Mulakkal got out on bail.
“Father Kuriakose was terrified after Mulakkal was out on bail. He used to tell us that his life was under threat. We cannot confirm if his death was related to the case, but there is definitely suspicion. When I had talked to him while the interrogation was going on, Father Kuriokose had told me that he is really scared that Franco could harm him,” he told The Quint.
Sister Indulekha Joseph, one of the leaders of the Kerala Catholic Church Reformation movement, while speaking to The Quint said that the death needed to be probed.
“Father Kuriakose's death definitely raises suspicion since he did not have any medical problems until yesterday. The matter should be probed,” she told The Quint.
Father Kuriakose, Witness Who Testified Against Franco Mulakkal, Found Dead
Father Kuriakose Kattuthara had earlier alleged threats from the Church for speaking against Mulakkal.
“The sisters had approached me, complaining about Bishop Franco. They did not approach the Kerala police, fearing the bishop. In fact, I fear what will happen to me for speaking out against him,” he had told Matrubhumi News, as quoted by TNM.
As the demands for his arrest grew, the Vatican temporarily relieved him of all pastoral responsibilities as the bishop of the Jalandhar Diocese of the Missionaries of Jesus.
While granting bail, the court had directed him to surrender his passport and not to enter his home state of Kerala – except to appear before the probe officer once in two weeks.