Jolly during her under-grad years with classmates Image Credit: Exclusive: Gulf News source

Dubai: She had a love for money, strong enough to steal as a child and allegedly murder as an adult. Jolly Joseph, the 47-year-old female accused in Kerala’s serial killer case, currently in judicial remand was apparently a model youngster except for this aberration.

Gulf News spoke exclusively to her family members and neighbours to understand what drove a devout Roman Catholic mother of two to allegedly murder her first husband, his family and the wife and child of her second husband. The reason being given is property and money, although no clear details have been released by the Kerala police.

A cheery girl

People who know Jolly are shocked with the arrest of who they thought was a “sweet, cheery girl” as a child.

Jolly grew up in the Vazhavara village, around seven kilometers away from Kattapana in Kerala’s hilly, rain-drenched Idduki district.

On the outside, it was a simple, hardworking middle-class farming family. “She was the fifth in a family of six children. She has three brothers and two elder sisters, one of them is deaf and mute,” said JG, 60, a distant relative who has lived next door to the family for over 40 years. JG has known Jolly since she was a baby: “Of course I know her well, she was born here and grew up playing in front of us. Our houses were just a few meters apart.”

When Gulf News visited the area, we found it to be green with dirt roads leading to pepper, cardamom and rubber plantations - fragrant with the hint of spice in the air. A stark contrast to the darkness surrounding the story of serial killing emerging.

Dirt roads leading to pepper, cardamom and rubber plantations Image Credit: Exclusive: Gulf News source

Mother’s mental state

While JG didn’t admit it, his wife told Gulf News: “Jolly’s mother appeared to suffer from some mild symptoms of mental ill health. She apparently had psychological issues early on, according to relatives.” She said it was related to postnatal depression.

Incidentally, Jolly’s older sister, who is deaf and mute was not born that way. JG explained that the family told them she developed a “fever after being scared by a screaming cat” around the age of two, which led to loss of speech and hearing.

A strict childhood

Every morning dressed in uniform with two plaits on each side, Jolly would greet people on her way to school with a smile and hello. “She attended St Mary’s Vazhavara school and was an average student,” said JG.

Her father, a middle-class man used to farm cardamom and peppercorn fields. He also ran a small shop selling grain, sugar, lentils and other essentials. “He was a respected pleasant man, to people who met him. But, strict with his children. There was no unnecessary expenditure of hard-earned money, they lived in a small house,” explained JG.

Jolly Joseph's old house Image Credit: Exclusive: Gulf News source

Need for money

Desire for money came young to her, A neighbour reccounted how on two occasions Jolly was apprehended by her father for stealing. The first time it was money from home, and the second, a gold bangle from a classmate during her under-grad in MES college, Nedumkandam. And he beat Jolly black and blue, breaking her arm for it.

A professor who teaches in the college told Gulf News that she belonged to the batch of 1989-1991. Gulf News has obtained an old photograph of Jolly with her classmates.

Relatives say that after Jolly got married, her desire for an affluent lifestyle grew. “Her father would complain that she would easily spend money to live lavishly and only be happy blowing up money,” added JG.

However, nothing in her behaviour alerted people around her that all might not be fine with Jolly.

“A sweet family”

Jolly left her family home in Vazhavara village about 22 years ago, when she married her relative Roy Thomas.

According to Gulf News sources, her parents belong to the Chottiyil family. Her parents now live in Kattapana.

A neighbour who lives close to the family’s current residence told Gulf News: “The family is very sweet and her father is a nice man who is respected by people in this area.”