Indian police widen probe into nun's murder

Suspect confesses to another killing, robbing five convents, they say
A man arrested for allegedly murdering a nun in south India in September has also confessed to killing another nun and to a string of robberies at several convents, police say.

Satheesh Babu, 38, was arrested Sept. 24 for allegedly bludgeoning to death Sister Amala Valummel, a 69-year-old Carmelite nun, in a convent in Kerala state’s Kottayam district on Sept. 17.

He also confessed to murdering a 83-year-old nun in the same area five months earlier and to robbing at least five convents in the state, police said.

Investigators were now trying to determine whether Babu acted alone, was part of a gang robbing convents, or was part of an anti-Christian conspiracy that targeted nuns, Inspector-General of police M.R. Ajith Kumar told ucanews.com.

According to Suneesh Babu, one of the investigating officers, these crimes went unnoticed because the convents did not report them to police.

Sateesh Bino, the superintendent of police in Kottayam, told ucanews.com that Babu confessed to killing Sister Jose Maria of the Sacred Heart Convent in Myladi village on April 17.

Police have registered a separate murder case and are seeking to exhume Sister Maria's body for further investigation, Bino said.

Nuns at the convent found the 83-year-old in a pool of blood after they heard her screams.

"The nuns presumed she died after falling out of bed as she was a heart patient and a chronic diabetic. Nobody suspected foul play," Bino said.

When ucanews.com contacted the Sacred Heart convent via telephone, a nun who declined to give her name confirmed the convent considered Sister Maria's death an accidental one.

According to police, Babu is also charged with stealing 70,000 rupees (US$1,067) from a church near Sister Maria's convent and another 600,000 rupees from the Franciscan Clarist Congregation provincial house in Aruvithura.

The convents come under Palai Diocese, a Catholic stronghold in Kerala.

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