Jolly Shaju is suspected of killing six members of her family over a period of 14 years.
Jolly Shaju is suspected of killing six members of her family over a period of 14 years. Image Credit: Twitter

Since last week, the Jolly serial murder case has been taking over Kerala's news channels and papers. Debates with police, psychologists, family members, neighbours - everyone seemed to be tuned in to understand the why, how and who of the six alleged murders. Starting in 2002, all the way to 2016, Jolly was proven to be on the scene for all six deaths.

Along with current husband Shaju's confession, authorities now suspect involvement of police and politicians in the crimes.

Husband confesses

In a shocking update on Monday, media houses reported that Shaju, Jolly's current husband, confessed to helping her kill his wife and one-year old daughter. His ex-wife Sily and daughter Alphine are the last two people Jolly allegedly killed.

Alphine Shaju, a toddler, died in 2014; the cause of her death was deemed to be choking on food at the time but later investigations showed that she may have displayed signs of poisoning. Two years later, her mother Sily Shaju, died while at a dentist's office and police say she may have consumed cyanide-laced water from Jolly.

Analysts had claimed earlier, according to media reports, that the murders of Alphine and Sily were meticulously planned as Jolly had to be on the scene without raising suspicion for both crimes. Shaju has now confessed to helping Jolly kill his wife and daughter.

After 90 minutes of questioning, the police took him to the Vadakara office of Superintend of Police, K. G. Simon and after another round of questioning, Simon told the media that Shaju will be let off.

"Our probe is going on in the right direction and if required we will ask Shaju to come back again. We are in the process of verifying all aspects as many more will be also questioned. The State Police chief called me and said that if required, chemical examination in the probe can be given to foreign countries," said Simon.

In between Shaju's father Zachariah, a retired teacher who had told the media earlier that his son was trapped into marriage by Jolly and her elder son, was asked to present himself before the probe team.

"She was not my business partner"

In a related development, Jolly's friend and beauty parlour owner Sulekha denied that Jolly was her partner in business.

"I know Jolly for over a decade and she introduced herself as a lecturer at the National Institute of Technology and she was a regular client at my parlour. When her husband Roy Thomas passed away, my husband and I went to her home. She said her husband passed away due to a cardiac arrest," said Sulekha.

Jolly, according to media reports, also told police that Shaju knew about the murders of his wife and daughter and that he told her to make sure no one came to know.

A day after the Ponnamattam House was sealed off, Shaju was seen taking a sack to his home. He reportedly told an auto-rickshaw driver that the sack contained books. 

Who else was arrested?

MS Matthew and Prajikumar were arrested. Jolly, in the latest update, reportedly confessed to police that Mathew was an accomplice in each and every one of the murders. She reportedly said he was the one who helped bring the poison used - cyanide. More details are to come from this allegation by Jolly, police told media.

Jolly Shaju, previously Jolly Thomas, married Shaju a year after after her last alleged crime. Shaju is a paternal first-cousin to Jolly's ex-husband Roy Thomas, who died in 2011. When Jolly was arrested for the heinous murders, the spotlight naturally fell on him, her new husband, who was also closely connected to the crimes.

Shaju's earlier media statement

Shaju, a teacher by profession, spoke to media outlets early on Monday. He said Jolly had “shown an interest" towards him even before wife Sily’s death, and that it had made him uncomfortable.

It was Jolly, Shaju claimed at the time, who broached the topic of marriage two months after Sily died.

Shaju said she then told him that the alliance would be good for Shaju’s child who had just lost his mother. She added, according to Shaju's earlier statement, that some relatives, including his dead wife's family, had suggested it.

However, media reports surfaced showing contradictions in Shaju's statement with those of Jolly's elder son (with ex-husband Roy Thomas).

Romo, on the other hand, told media Sily's family had not taken the initiative to conduct their marriage and that it was Shaju's father who initiated the talks. Romo alleged that Jolly and Shaju were ready for marriage right then and there, and talks of the marriage had begun just days after Sily's death.

Rojo also said Shaju did not appear to care much, at the time, about his wife's and daughter's deaths. He allegedly told Jolly - "They had to die someday" - which Jolly conveyed to Rojo. 

"My mother could not have committed six murders alone.."

Jolly's elder son Romo told IANS on Sunday: "A crime is a crime and the wrongdoer should be punished."

He told media on Sunday, "“My mother could not have committed all the murders alone, including that of my father. I suspect help from outsiders." 

"I don't want to say anything. The probe by the crime branch is on. The truth should come out. I have got to stay strong as I have a younger brother. I can't afford to let him down," the 21-year-old added.

When did it start getting suspicious?

After Roy's death in 2011, Jolly allegedly moved to get the family property in her name. She got far in this, according to reports, procedures for the transfer were almost complete. However Roy's brother, Rojo realised this and transferred all ownership rights back to his father's name before heading back to the United States of America.

In 2017, after Jolly married Shaju, the property came under the light again. Renji (Roy's sister) and Rojo moved for partition of shares with a third going to Jolly and her two children with Roy. Jolly raised a ruckus at this point, Renji reportedly said, and wanted the house and 38 cents of land, along with a share in another 50-cent piece of land.

She brought up a will at this point, proven fake earlier. The fake will stated that the house and the land it was on would belong to Roy and Jolly. This particular will first surfaced, Renji said, after her father's death in 2008. When Jolly brought it up again in 2017, the brother-sister duo looked at Roy's postmortem report again and felt suspicious of Jolly's behaviour.

Rojo then filed a confidential complaint with the police. Jolly's children currently live with Renji.

The crimes

The police told local media houses that all six victims had been poisoned by the accused, Jolly, and that she had confessed to all the crimes after seeing the evidence.

Vadakkara Rural Superintendent of Police told media on Sunday that Jolly confessed to the murders and reportedly said that the primary motive was ownership of the family property. She allegedly used cyanide-laced drinks and food to do the deed.

The victims are (year of death in brackets): Jolly's former parents-in-law Annamma Thomas (2002) and Tom Thomas (2008), ex-husband Roy Thomas (2011), brother of Annamma Thomas - Mathew Manjadiyil (2014). Alphine Shaju, toddler daughter of Shaju (2014) and Sily, Shaju's ex-wife (2016).

Jolly murders family tree
This family tree, published by Manorama Online, shows the family tree and how Jolly (blue box) - the accused - was connected to each victim. Image Credit: Manorama Online

All deaths showed eerily similar symptoms of poisoning that were not considered at the time of death. Jolly was proven to be on the scene for all the cases. 

The postmortem was conducted only for Roy Thomas and his report showed traces of poison. The case was considered suicide and closed at the time. The remains of the other victims were exhumed on Friday for forensic analysis.