Senior priest Father Kuriakose Kattuthara who had testified against former Jalandhar bishop Franco Mulakkal accused of raping a nun, was found dead Monday morning.
Kattuthara was found dead in a room at the St. Mary’s Church complex in Dasuya town in Hoshiarpur, around 180 km from state capital Chandigarh. He was under the Jalandhar diocese which was headed by Mulakkal, according to reports.
The Punjab Police said a probe is underway into the 67-year-old priest’s death.
“It was found that he vomited over the bed. Blood pressure tablets were found at the spot. Investigation is underway. In our notice, no security was provided to him,” report quoted A R Sharma, deputy superintendent of police of Dasuya , as saying.
His family and supporters of the nun, however, said they suspect foul play.
His brother Jose Kattuthara told local news channels that church authorities from Jalandhar called him this morning and informed him that his brother was found dead in his room which was locked from inside. Church officials reportedly told the priest’s brother that he may have died of a heart attack.
But Jose Kattuthara remains suspicious. He said he will file a complaint and move the Kerala High Court to seek cancellation of Mulakkal’s bail. The former Jalandhar bishop had been ordered by the high court not to return to Kerala unless summoned by the police. He had recently returned to Jalandhar to a grand welcome.
Sister Anupama, one of the five nuns who staged a dharna in Kochi seeking arrest of the bishop, said she also suspected foul play. “The priest was a pillar of strength to us. He is also one of the key witnesses in the case. Only a thorough probe can reveal what led to his death,” she said. After hearing of the priest’s untimely death, they feel more nervous, she added.
The brother of the nun also alleged it was “pre-planned murder”. “Father Kuriakose Kattuthara had said that his life was under threat. An investigation should be conducted into his death. All witnesses should be given police protection,” he said.
Father Kuriakose Kattuthara had alleged there were attempts by the church to hush up the sexual assault complaint of the nun against bishop Mulakkal of Jalandhar diocese.
He had also said that many of the nuns who had left the church had approached him with complaints against the bishop. They refused to reveal the truth because they were afraid of Mulakkal, Father Kattuthara had claimed.
Mulakkal was arrested in September 21 on charges of raping a nun repeatedly between 2014 and 2016. He was sent to two-week judicial custody on September 24.