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Indian police name priest as chief murder suspect

Say strong evidence ties him to 2010 death of 12-year-old girl reporter, Thiruvananthapuram

February 14, 2014

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Police have named a Catholic priest as the chief suspect in the 2010 murder of a 12-year old girl at a retreat center in Kerala in southern India.

The Crime Branch wing of the state police named Father Mathukutty Munnattumugham of Changanassery archdiocese as their main suspect in a report filed on Thursday before the Kerala High Court.

Father Mathukutty was assistant director of the center.

The victim, a girl named Sreya, was attending a Christmas retreat camp in the Accept Kripa Bhavan, near Alapuzha along with 67 Sunday school students. She was found dead in a pond on December 17, 2010.

The death was “not accidental" but "a homicide”, the report said.

The medical officer who conducted the autopsy stated that bite marks found on the lower lip of the dead girl were not self-inflicted and caused by another person.

Fingerprints recovered at the scene belonged to Father Mathukutty,” the report states.

According to Vinson Paul, Additional Director-General of Police heading the crime investigation wing, Father Muunnattumugham had given contradictory statements during questioning.

“He offered to undergo a narco-test, but later refused. He also objected when police sought a court’s permission to conduct the test on suspects,” Paul said on Thursday.

A naro-test is an interrogation involving the use of a truth serum.

State police filed the report on Thursday in response to a High Court order calling for a progress report into the killing.

The victim’s father, Benny Eashaparayil, has expressed frustration at the slow pace of the investigation, telling that he simply wants justice for his daughter.

“Three years have gone and police have not found out who killed my daughter," he said, adding that the family has been demanding a probe by India's top investigation agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

"I hope that court will now order a CBI probe,” Eashaparayil said.

Father Mathukutty was unavailable for comment. Church sources say he has been transferred and is a parish priest now. They refused to disclose his whereabouts.  

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