Police investigate missing priest
To probe suspicious disappearance of Salesian father, maybe after apendicitis
Fr Francis Fernandez
Railway police in Assam have set up a team to probe the mysterious disappearance of a Salesian priest from a train four days ago. Father Francis Fernandez, rector of Don Bosco Church in Tura, Meghalaya state, was returning from New Delhi to Guwahati, Assam, when he went missing. He was scheduled to arrive in Guwahati on October 27. On October 29, the police found the priest’s personal belongings in a dustbin in New Jalpaiguri railway station in West Bengal state. According to Salesian sources, the 57-year-old priest had called them on October 27 from the station to inform them that he would arrive shortly in Guwahati. However, a text message that followed from an unidentified person to a Salesian priest in Tura said Fr Fernandes had died in a hospital at Kishanganj on the West Bengal-Bihar border. The message said the priest was hospitalized after suffering appendicitis and that fellow passengers had collected money for the surgery but the priest died at the hospital. The sender, identified in the message only as “a villager,” concluded by saying the priest was a good man. Local Salesian provincial Fr Joseph Almeida said the police believe the missing priest’s belongings were left in the dustbin to divert attention. The Salesians have filed a first information missing persons report with the railway protection force in Guwahati. Meanwhile, Northeast Frontier Railways has set up a special team to probe the priest’s disappearance. The team has questioned the owners of two public call offices at New Jalpaiguri station from where the text message was sent.