She allegedly killed six members of her family over 14 years, all for money. Jolly Shaju from the Indian state of Kerala was arrested as a suspect in a chilling murder mystery that the Kerala police are finally close to solving, 17 years after the first murder. Her second husband and a relative who supplied cyanide for murders were also detained by the police.
Indian news websites on Sunday, published the details of the six serial deaths that took place in a Catholic family in Kozhikode between 2002 and 2016.
The arrests were made after obtaining enough evidence in the two-months-long investigations.
As per a report by India Today, a police official said: "The accused made meticulous planning and charted the safe mode to conceal the murders. It was a challenging case."
When retired teacher Annamma Thomas (57) collapsed and died in 2002, the family treated it as a natural death. After six years, her husband Tom Thomas (66), an Indian government employee died of heart failure.
In 2011, their son, Roy Thomas (40), died in a similar manner. The autopsy report revealed poisoning before death. In 2014, Annamma’s brother, Mathew Manjadiyil (67), died similarly.
In 2016, their relative’s daughter, Alphonsa (2), died of a heart attack and within months her mother, Sili (27), also died.
Meanwhile, Roy’s widow, Jolly, married Sili’s widower Shaju Scaria and claimed ownership of the family property with the support of the last will prepared by her father-in-law Tom.
Tom’s younger son Rojo, an NRI based in the US, challenged the transfer of ownership of family property and lodged complaints with the Crime Branch regarding the serial deaths.
New probe led to clues
A new complaint was filed by Roy's brother Rojo Thomas.
As part of a new probe launched following the complaint, police officials exhumed the bodies of five people.
According to indiatoday.in: “As part of the probe, the police had opened family tombs on October 4 to examine the reasons behind the deaths.”
And, according to ndtv.com: “All the victims' bodies, except Roy's, were exhumed by the police from different graveyards. Roy's body was not dug out because his post mortem examination was completed right after his death, the police said.”
Police officials said that they found a pattern in the way all the family members died and signs suggesting they were poisoned.
Forensic experts found the presence of cyanide
According to indiatoday.in, police said Jolly, who was a commerce graduate, had claimed she was an engineering graduate and was working as a lecturer at the National Institute of Technology (NIT).
While verifying call details, police found that Jolly and Shaju were in constant touch during odd hours. When the dead bodies were exhumed, forensic experts found the presence of cyanide.
In all the cases, traces of cyanide had been found and it had been a case of slow poisoning, police said.
"We found that the Roy's death had occurred due to cyanide, while the wife had claimed he had died of cardiac arrest," police officers added.
As reported by hindustantimes.com, Kozhikkode Rural Superintendent of Police KG Simon said: “We arrested Jolly Thomas, her friend M Mathew, who arranged potassium cyanide and a jewellery worker Praju Kumar, who supplied the poisonous substance.”
According to ndtv.com, the police suspect the involvement of Roy's wife in connection to the death of her husband and have arrested the woman. She was reportedly present at all the places where the deaths occurred, officers said. However, her connection to the deaths of the other family members is still being probed, according to officials.
News18.com reported that while the probe in other five cases is still underway, the police have said the motive of the murders may not just be property, even though the earlier probe had pointed at property dispute as Joli had managed to inherit her husband and his parents' assets.
"Roy's wife Jolly has been arrested for her alleged involvement based on preliminary investigation. The larger probe in relation to the five other deaths is underway," a police official said.
In a new update, according to Kerala news websites, Shaju, Jolly's second husband was seen transporting a sack full of things from the Ponnamattam house on Saturday at around 4 pm, to his own house in Pulikkayam. An auto driver who gave a police statement said, that when he asked Shaju, he said it was books that he was shifiting.