For the past week, Keralites across the globe have been gripped in shock and awe at the unravelling of a 14-year-long killing spree. The accused, Jolly Shaju (previously Jolly Thomas), is in judicial remand and has confessed to police about the crimes.
Jolly, the prime accused
47-year old Jolly is the prime accused in the murder of six members of the family she married into. Jolly, originally from Kattappana in Idukki, married first husband Roy Thomas in 1997. She reportedly was related to the family and met Roy at a relative's house. They married after a brief love affair. People described Jolly as a "devout, jovial" lady who fit well into her society.
Roy's parents Annamma Thomas and Tom Thomas lived with the couple at the family house. Roy's brother, Rojo, lives in the United States of America.
It was a confidential complaint by Rojo that triggered the investigation. Police collected evidence for over a year, and were able to place Jolly on the scene of all six alleged murders.
The family tree
Jolly (47), originally from Idukki, was married to Roy Thomas of Ponnamattam House in Kozhikode. Her parents-in-law, Tom Thomas and Annamma Thomas, lived with the couple.
Roy had one brother, Rojo Thomas, who is a non-resident Indian in the United States of America.
And there was a cousin who features prominently in this story; Shaju, Roy's relative and Jolly's current husband.
The first to die were Jolly's parents-in-law and husband Roy, followed by Annamma's brother, Mathew Manjadiyil, in 2014. There were two other victims: Shaju's then-wife Sily, who died in 2016, and his two-year-old daughter, Alphine Shaju, who was murdered in 2014.
Modus operandi and timeline
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 all the evidence.
Jolly allegedly killed everyone in the case using cyanide-laced food or drinks, starting with her former mother-in-law Annamma Thomas in 2002.
However, before Annamma died, she had been taken to the hospital after displaying signs of poisoning after consuming mutton soup. Annamma was sent home after doctors couldn't pinpoint the issue through routine tests.
According to police reports, six years later, Tom Thomas (66) also passed away, after swooning and collapsing. Their daughter-in-law Jolly was present on the spot on both occasions.
Vadakara Rural Superintendent Police, KG Simon, told the local media that when Annamma died, followed by Tom Thomas, Jolly's father-in-law, in 2008, no one suspected foul play.
Roy Thomas, Jolly's then husband, died in 2011 after consuming rice and curry that was allegedly poisoned. He was found dead in a bathroom which was locked from the inside, according to reports. At the time the cause of death was ruled as suicide owing to financial issues as the post mortem report showed traces of poison.
The person who called for a post mortem report was Roy's maternal uncle Mathew Manjadiyil. He wanted a probe into Roy's cause of death. In 2014, Mathew swooned and died after Jolly, according to the police report, gave him posion-laced coffee.
The same year, at the celebration of her brother's Holy Communion ceremony, toddler Alphine Shaju died. Her cause of death was ruled as 'choking on food' at the time. Two years later, Jolly gave Sily Shaju, Alphine's mother, a glass of water and she died on the spot with excessive frothing at the mouth. Shaju, Jolly's current husband, said he had attributed her death to an epilepsy episode.
Shaju later confessed to the police, according to media reports, that he helped her in the murder of his wife and child. He was let go after recording his statement.
The bodies of the other victims were exhumed on Friday for forensic analysis.
Who else was arrested?
MS Matthew and Prajikumar were arrested. Jolly 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.
Statements from the family
Jolly's elder son Romo told IANS on Sunday: "A crime is a crime and the wrongdoer should be punished."
He told media, “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.
Lies on lies
Jolly was a commerce graduate, according to reports.
However, she had convinced family members, reportedly, that she was a B. Tech graduate and a visiting professor at the National Institute of Technology (NIT).
She, according to Rojo (brother of former husband Roy), forged Tom Thomas's will to show herself as the sole heir.
The property dispute and suspicious deaths of Alphine and Sily, according to reports, is what motivated Rojo to file a case.