Dubai: Curry and Cyanide - The Jolly Joseph Case, a true crime documentary on the 2019 serial murder case that jolted the Indian state of Kerala, is set to be released on Netflix UAE on December 22.
Directed by Christo Tomy, an award-winning writer, and director from Kerala, the documentary investigates six shocking deaths in a family and the woman at the centre of the unbelievable case – Jolly Joseph.
Who is Jolly Joseph?
Early in October 2019, a 47-year-old woman named Jollyamma Joseph was arrested for killing six people of the Ponnamattam family, including a two-year-old, over a span of 14 years. The murders took place in Koodathayi in Kerala’s Kozhikode district. The mysterious murder weapon in all cases – cyanide.
It all happened when a man named Rojo Thomas, a non-resident Indian living in the United States, grew suspicious about the death of his parents, brother, and other family members, which happened over 14 years. He complained to the police and demanded a re-investigation into cases that had been previously closed as ‘unnatural deaths’.
Following this, a team of police officials and forensic medicine experts opened burial vaults at St Lourde's Church in Koodathayi, and St Mary's Church in Kodencherry, in Kerala's Kozhikode district, where the family members had been buried.
Soon the investigators zeroed in on Jolly Joseph, Roy Thomas' (Rojo’s brother) former wife. For years, Joseph talked about how her house was cursed, blaming it for the unexplained deaths.
Her mother-in-law apparently died from a mysterious illness. At least three of her close relatives suffered fatal heart attacks, and her two-year-old niece choked to death on a piece of food.
But in October, Kerala police presented a different theory - they alleged, Joseph had poisoned each of them, by giving them cyanide-laced food, and then covered up her crimes with lies.
On October 5, police arrested Jolly Joseph, for the murders. They also arrested her relative M S Mathew and a goldsmith named Prajikumar, for providing cyanide to Joseph.
She was sent to Kozhikode district jail and State Police Chief Loknath Behra described the developments of the murder case as a “challenging probe”.
The mother-of-two seemed to be a pious, jovial person, according to neighbours.
Every day, she left home, on the pretext of going to her job as a professor at the prestigious National Institute of Technology Calicut (NIT) university, about a half hour away from home. She spent her spare time helping in church activities.
A list of the serial murders
On August 22, 2002, Joseph’s mother-in-law, Annamma fell unconscious immediately after drinking some mutton soup. She was hospitalised and later died.
According to police, Jolly killed her mother-in-law Annamma to gain control over the finances at home.
Six years later, Tom Thomas, her father-in-law also passed away.
Police said Jolly killed Thomas to seize the family’s property. It was found that Jolly had forged Thomas' will, which said the family property should be given to Jolly, and her husband Roy.
In 2011, Jolly killed her husband, Roy Thomas. He had an alcohol problem and did not have a steady income. Allegedly, she mixed cyanide in his rice and chickpea curry.
The cause of death was ruled a suicide, at the time, due to financial issues as Roy Thomas’ post-mortem report showed traces of poison.
She later killed MM Mathew, Roy Thomas’ maternal uncle, after he cried foul over Roy's death. Mathew had demanded a post-mortem on the previous deaths. Mathew's wife was not at home that day, and Jolly mixed cyanide in his coffee.
After Roy's death, Jolly married Roy Thomas’ paternal cousin Shaju (who is the son of Tom Thomas' brother).
In 2016, she killed Shaju's two-year-old daughter Alphine, by giving her a piece of bread that had cyanide on it, and Shaju’s former wife Sily. While it was first suspected that Shaju had a part to play in the murders, he was later let off after police interrogation.
Sharing the trailer, the official handle of Netflix India wrote, "A small town in Kerala is shaken by a series of murders and all evidence points to Jolly Joseph. Did the chatty, friendly, much-loved Jolly really play a game of secrets, lies, and poison?"
The documentary will be available in six languages – Malayalam, Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and English.