Thiruvananthapuram: Police in Kerala are poised to expand the team investigating the chilling revelation that one woman in Kozhikode district may have murdered six of her family members, including her first husband and his parents.

Jolly Joseph, 47, was arrested last week after police conducted preliminary investigations that spanned a few months into charges that she had murdered six people in the family. All the murders were apparently carried out using food laced with potassium cyanide.

In the course of the investigation, police also exhumed the bodies of the victims — who died between 2002 and 2016 — from the cemeteries of two churches in Koodathayi and Kodencherry.

“The accused is currently in judicial custody. On Wednesday, police will make a request to get her in police custody. We feel it is better that the investigation team is enlarged,” state police chief Lokanath Behera said on Tuesday.

Lawyers were frequent visitors

In new revelations, a domestic help who worked with the Ponnamattam family for nearly four decades said lawyers were frequent visitors to Joseph’s house after the death of her in-laws Annamma Thomas in 2002 and Tom Thomas in 2008, and her husband Roy Thomas in 2011. When he questioned their frequent visits, he fell out with Joseph, he said.

Meanwhile, Joseph’s second husband Shaju Zacharia said he was mortally scared of her.

Zacharia is Roy Thomas’s first cousin, and he married Joseph after his first wife Cily died in 2016. Police officials suspect that Joseph poisoned Cily and her two-year-old daughter.

Further doubts have arisen about a photo that shows Zacharia and Joseph together kissing the body of Cily during the funeral rituals. Zacharia told a local television channel that Joseph appeared to have masterminded that move as a “foundation” for their marriage. Cily died in 2016 and the following year Zacharia and Joseph got married.

There are also reports that say Joseph may have undergone one or more abortions. Responding to those reports, Zacharia said he was not aware about it.

Given the sheer number of allegations coming up against Joseph, police are also investigating the call records of the accused, particularly those with whom she had most frequent interactions.

The story so far

Jolly Joseph, 47, who was married into the Ponnamattam family in Kozhikode district, is accused of murdering six family members. All the deceased are believed to have been fed potassium cyanide mixed with food.

The first death was in 2002, of her mother-in-law, Annamma Thomas.

Her father-in-law Tom Thomas died in 2008.

In 2011, her husband Roy Thomas died, after consuming food. His post mortem showed the presence of cyanide, but because he had gone to the restroom and locked himself in before he died, it was believed to have been a case of suicide. Police did not follow up on the case.

In 2014, Annamma’s brother — Roy Thomas’ maternal uncle — Mathew Manchady died. It was Jolly Joseph who found him dead. Manchady had raised suspicions about Roy Thomas’ death.

The same year, Alphine, the two-year-old daughter of Roy Thomas’s cousin, Shaju Zacharia and his wife Cily died while the child was at the baptism feast of her brother, eating food served there.

In 2016, Alphine’s mother, Cily died while waiting outside a dentist’s cabin alongside Jolly Joseph while her husband Shaju Zacbaria was inside the dentist’s clinic.

In 2017, Shaju Zacharia and Jolly Joseph get married.

Roy Thomas’s brother Rojo Thomas, who is based in the US, and their sister get suspicious at this point, and inform the police that they suspect a series of murders from 2002 to 2016.

Police reinvestigate the death of Roy Thomas and his post mortem report and take Jolly Joseph and two others who provided cyanide to her into custody. Jolly Joseph confesses her role in the murders and says she had assistance from some others.

Police exhume bodies of the victims from cemeteries at Koodathayi and Kodenchery.

Police decide to send samples for forensic test to a laboratory in the US.

Police plan to enlarge investigation team.