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'Jollyamma is being made a scapegoat'

October 18, 2019 12:39 IST

'How can the police say that she alone has committed the crime and no other person has done it?'

IMAGE: Jollyamma Joseph being arrested in connection with the deaths of six members of a family over a period of 14 years in Koodathai village, Kozhikode district, Kerala. Photograph: ANI
 

Ever since news broke of Jollyamma Joseph being charged with the killing of six family members between 2002 and 2016, the 'deadly cyanide killer' case has sent shockwaves not only across Kozhikode, Kerala, where the crime was committed, but the entire nation.

According to the Kerala police, Jollyamma first killed her mother-in-law Annamma Thomas, 57, on August 22, 2002, at their home by poisoning her mutton soup.

Her next target was father-in-law Tom Thomas Ponnamattam, 66, a retired government employee, who fell ill after eating cyanide-laced tapioca and died on August 26, 2008.

On September 30, 2011, Jollyamma's husband Roy Thomas died mysteriously and though traces of cyanide were found in his body, the case was hushed up as a suicide.

Jolly's fourth victim, according to the police, was M M Mathew Manjadiyil, 68, Annamma Thomas's brother, who died on February 2, 2014.

Three months later, on May 5, 2014, Alphine Shaju, 2, daughter of Jolly's current husband Shaju Zacharia from his first wife, died after eating bread crumbs and mutton curry during a feast of holy communion.

Finally, on January 11, 2016, Shaju's wife Sili, 44, was allegedly killed by Jolly when she drank poisoned water at a clinic where her husband was consulting a dentist. Jolly married Shaju thereafter.

While the gruesome details of the case have horrified the state, Jolly's lawyer Biju Anthony Aloor, who has earned a reputation for fighting high-profile cases, says she is not guilty until proven.

"It's the duty of a lawyer to defend an accused even if everyone is against that person. Only the court will decide whether Jollyamma has actually committed the crime or not," Aloor told Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

What made you take up Jollyamma Joseph's case that has so shocked the nation?

I took up the case because I was requested by a person (close to Jollyamma). I was informed that this matter is serious as a woman was being accused of multiple murders.

I decided to defend the woman and, therefore, filed a vakalatnama (empowering him to act on behalf of his/her client).

In this particular case, public opinion is very strong about the accused.

It is the duty of a lawyer to defend an accused even if everyone opposes that person.

The rights of an accused must also be protected. Only the court will decide whether Jollyamma has actually committed the crime or not.

What will be your line of defence for Jollyamma? Do you plan to plead not guilty?

She has told the police that all these deaths are cases of suicides or deaths due to heart attack.

It is up to the police and investigating agencies whether they consider the cases to be suicide or homicide.

From the prosecution's point of view, property is said be the reason behind the crime.

So far, no property or sum of money has been handed over to her, either according to a will or (as a surviving beneficiary).

She has not tried to transfer any property in her name. No transfer of property or money has been made so far.

No benefits have been given to her. So how can it be said at this moment that property or money was the motive?

The police say Jolly has confessed to committing the crimes for property.

Confessions given to the police are not accepted (as evidence). Only a confession given to a magistrate can be admissible otherwise it is only an information under Section 106 of the Evidences Act, nothing more.

Rojo, brother of Jolly's first husband, says she tried to illegally inherit family wealth by forging documents. Is it true?

The charge was levelled as an attempt to reach a compromise over money earned through the property.

Rojo, brother of Jollyamma's first husband, intended to get a share in the money that would have been otherwise transferred in Jollyamma's name.

Jollyamma has not got any benefits from the property so far.

Even otherwise, the charge of forgery has to be proven (in court).

The police say M S Mathew and Prajin Kumar, the goldsmiths who sold cyanide to Jolly, have confessed.

That may be true according to the prosecution, but we do not see specific cases being brought against Jollyamma.

It has not been specified by the police or investigating agencies that who has administered the cyanide or the poison on those six people.

I say this case is only a set of allegations by the police. These allegations may not take a form of evidence against the accused.

What about the two-year-old girl? What was her cause of death? And what was the cause of death of other five people? What do their death certificates say?

According to investigating agencies, the death certificate of Jollyamma's (first) husband says there was some poisonous substance (found in the body).

There has been no investigation into the death of the child.

My request to the honourable court is that it is the duty of the prosecution to prove that the (poisonous) substance was there (in the bodies of all the deceased persons). Or that the substance (cyanide) was administered by Jollyamma.

Jolly claims she needed the cyanide to kill rats. The police claim Mathew gave her the poison with which she killed the six people.

It's again an allegation. There could be a strong suspicion against her. The Supreme Court says mere strong suspicion cannot be taken as evidence in the court.

All these allegations have to be well-founded, otherwise they cannot be used against the woman who has been arrested.

This is a false and fabricated case against Jollyamma to trap her. She is being made a scapegoat.

You seem to be very confident of Jollyamma's innocence.

Today (on Wednesday) a group of advocates met her and she said she is under pressure to accept all the six murders.

The police did not allow the lawyers to meet her earlier, but the court gave the permission.

She told them she is under pressure by investigating agencies and they are trying to fabricate things against her.

Why would the police target one woman for no reason?

That is what the general public has to think about. From 2002 to 2016 there was no complaint (against her).

How come all of a sudden this kind of complaint came up and an investigation was carried out?

It should also be pointed out that no complaint against anyone was brought for such a long time.

How can they (police) simply say that she alone has committed the crime and no other person has done it?

But the deaths are all of similar nature and in one family. Certainly something is fishy.

That needs to be investigated.

What about the bodies? Can the police exhume them to find traces of cyanide?

It is too difficult. I don't think a post-mortem exam of exhumed bodies will succeed in finding traces of cyanide. It is too late now.

SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF / Rediff.com
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