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

Thiruvananthapuram: Last week, Kerala Police cracked the case of six members of a family being poisoned to death over a 14-year period from 2002 to 2016.

However, not everyone is impressed by this, with people on social media arguing that if the case had been better investigated at an earlier stage, many deaths could have been prevented.

Jolly Joseph, 47, is now in police custody for having allegedly masterminded the murders of her mother-in-law Annamma Thomas in 2002, father-in-law Tom Thomas in 2008, her husband Roy Thomas in 2011, Annamma’s brother Mathew Manchady in 2014, and Roy Thomas’ cousin Shaju Zacharia’s wife Cily and her daughter Alphine respectively in 2016 and 2014.

Zacharia and Joseph then got married in 2017. Police have arrested Joseph and two accomplices who are believed to have provided cyanide to her.

The alleged murders took place in Koodathayi and Kodenchery near Kozhikode, and police dug up graves at two churches to exhume the bodies of the six for forensic examination.

State Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan congratulated the police investigation team for having pieced together the crime and arresting the alleged perpetrators within a few days. The State Director General of Police Lokanath Behera also appreciated the investigation team.

However, residents and social media commentators had a different view. Some residents in Koodathayi told a Malayalam television channel that if the third death in the series — that of Roy Thomas — had been properly investigated, the murders that followed could have been avoided.

A post mortem was conducted on Roy Thomas’ body, and traces of poison were found, but police did not pursue the case and wrote it off as a suicide. Better investigators would have caught on to the presence of cyanide and inquired who had procured the poison for him even if it was for suicide, residents said.

It was Roy Thomas’ maternal uncle Mathew Manchady who sought a post mortem when he died. Three years later, Manchady himself was poisoned to death.

Social media commentators also said that more than the police, it was Roy Thomas’ US-based brother Rojo Thomas who found something eerie in the series of deaths in the family, and got details of the deaths through the right-to-information route and alerted the police.

It was when a police detective team began investigation based on Rojo Thomas’ petition that the police could begin to put together the pieces of the puzzle.