Father Kuriakose Kattuthara, a key witness in the Kerala nun rape case who testified against accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal, was on Monday found dead under mysterious circumstances in Punjab's Hoshiarpur district, police said.
Kattuthara, 62, was found unconscious in his room in the catholic church premises in Dasuya, 40 km from Hoshiarpur town, on Monday morning and was taken to a local hospital where he was declared brought dead, they said.
Police said the cause of the death would be known after post-mortem.
According to police, no visible injury marks were found on the body.
"There was vomit in the room,” said Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) A R Sharma.
"The viscera will be sent for examination which will throw light on the cause of the death," he added.
Sharma said the police was investigating the case from all the angles.
"The police is waiting for the family of the priest to come from Kerala. After they reach here, the post-mortem of the body of the priest will be conducted," he added.
Sharma said the priest retired for the day after taking his meal on Sunday night.
"In the morning today, the room cleaner, who went to the room of the priest for cleaning, found the door locked from inside.
“After knocking on the door several times without success, he saw from the windowpane of the room the priest apparently lying unconscious on the bed.
“He immediately informed the school administration, which got the door opened and found the priest dead," he said.
Relatives of Kattuthara in Kerala said the priest was concerned about his safety after coming out openly against the bishop.
Kattuthara had testified against Mulakkal, they said.
Besides demanding a thorough probe into the death, the relatives want the post-mortem to be conducted at the Alappuzha Medical College in Kerala.
Supporters of the rape victim urged the Kerala government to provide security to the complainant in view of the ‘mysterious death’ of a key witness in the case.
Kattuthara was transferred 15 days ago to the church at Dharampur in Dasuya, police said. He was staying in the church premises which is also home to St. Paul Convent School. Earlier, he was serving in the church at Bhogpur.
He had also served as a priest in the Jalandhar diocese.
Lawrence Chaudhary, national president, Christian Front, demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the death.
Meanwhile, the five nuns, who are staying with the rape victim at a convent in Kuravilangad near Kottayam, said they were not safe and that anything could happen to them.
"We are scared now. There is a mystery behind the death of the priest who had testified against Bishop Mulakkal.
"We and those who stood with us during our protest seeking arrest of Bishop Mulakkal are also in danger," Sister Anupama, speaking on behalf of all of them, told reporters in Kottayam.
In her complaint to the Kottayam Police in June, the rape victim alleged that Mulakkal raped her at a guest house in Kuravilangad in May 2014 and later sexually exploited her on several occasions.
However, Mulakkal denied the charges as ‘baseless and concocted’, insisting she levelled those as the Catholic order had rejected her demand for favours.
Mulakkal had received a rousing welcome from his followers and supporters when he returned to Jalandhar after being released on bail by a Kerala court last week.
He had last month stepped aside as the bishop of the Jalandhar diocese.